Last month, Stefan Ligtenberg and Sippora Stellingwerf visited Burundi together with partners from the GAP4All project (Good Agricultural Practices for All). One of the goals of the visit was to evaluate farmers’ opinion on the first version of the AgriCoach app. The AgriCoach app helps farmers decide on what, how and when to plant. Weather Impact provides the weather forecasts in the AgriCoach app. The forecasts contain information on rainfall and temperature for up to 8 days ahead and are given in three languages: Kirundi, French and English.
We visited several farmer groups across the country and learned that the weather forecasts, especially of rainfall, are well received, understood, and widely used. Using the forecasts, farmers plan their agricultural activities and protect their crops when hazardous weather is forecast. Some farmers, who occasionally hire workers, indicated that the weather forecast directly saves them money: when it rains, no work is done, but the workers have to get paid nonetheless. Using the app, they decide which days are suitable for hiring workers. Other farmers mentioned that last year, when they did not receive the forecast, they planted their maize crops too early. After planting it remained dry for several weeks, destroying their crops. If they would have had the AgriCoach app, they would have postponed the planting activities.
Within Gap4All, we do not only give out weather forecast data, the farmers also send us data back. For this project we have distributed manual rain meters to 66 farmer groups. The ‘chef du rain’ of the group measures the rainfall every day at 7 AM and sends the data using the tablet. These measurements will help us to validate and further improve the rainfall forecasts. However, we learned that the measurements are also of great use to the farmers themselves. Measuring the daily rainfall helps farmers to interpret the rainfall forecast, which is given in mm’s of rain, better. Next to that, they use the rainfall measurements to check whether our forecasts were correct.
Based on the suggestions of farmers we visited, we will further improve the weather forecast. In the end, our goal is that the weather forecasts improve crop yield and increase the livelihood and resilience of Burundian farmers.