Stakeholders learn new features of yield forecasting toolkit

The CRAFT Toolbox will help policymakers with in-season forecasts: Photo credit T. Krupnik/CIMMYT.

An upgraded version of the CCAFS Regional Agricultural Forecasting Toolbox (CRAFT) was demonstrated at a workshop organised by CCAFS South Asia in July. The toolkit can be used by policymakers and researchers to monitor in-season crop yields and help with food security planning.

For policymakers to make informed decisions on food policy planning- from production, trade, weather impacts to overall food security in the country- it is critical that they have access to in-season crop yield forecasts.

The CCAFS Regional Agricultural Forecasting Toolbox (CRAFT), developed together with the Asia Risk Centre, for South Asia uses seasonal weather forecasts, historical databases, and current weather to estimate yields of various crops in advance.
It can provide policymakers and stakeholders precise information on the likely volume of crop production in specific areas at different times of the year. The tool also supports risk analysis and climate change impact studies for policymakers and help anticipate the impacts of climate variations on crop production and in agricultural and food security management decisions.


CCAFS in South Asia has been closely working with stakeholders in the region to enhance their capacity in yield forecasting. We work to make these tools accessible to national research institutes and policymakers to enable better policymaking and planning. Recently a workshop was held to release CRAFT V2.0.0 in - an updated version of the toolbox. The new version of CRAFT is more user friendly than the old version and can precisely forecast in-season crop yields.

Hands-on learning sessions

In all, 32 participants from South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka) and Africa representing national agriculture research centres, ministries of agriculture, non-governmental organisations, national universities, and CGIAR Centers attended a workshop to learn about the upgrades to the toolbox. Resource persons guided participants through the structure and functions, software installation process, data requirements and preparation and in-season crop yield forecasting.

The CRAFT V2.0.0 provides support for spatial input data, spatial crop simulations and integration of seasonal climate forecasts, spatial aggregation and probabilistic analysis of forecast uncertainty. The new version allows calibration of model predictions from historic agricultural statistics, analysis, and visualization. This toolbox is based on crop simulation model-Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT) and incorporates the Climate Prediction Toolkit (CPT).

Case studies have been conducted using the old version of CRAFT in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. CCAFS’s research partners in each country were involved in testing the toolkit in different ecological systems. Initial results indicate that the toolbox customized for South Asia Region was able to forecast the crop yields very well. However, simulation model was required to validate and calibrate to fit for different crops and ecological conditions.




Country-wise case studies

The new version of CRAFT will be used for crop yield forecasting in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) in Bangladesh, Indian Meteorological Department and Indian Council of Agricultural Research in India, Nepal Food Security Monitoring System in Ministry of Agriculture, and Natural Resource Management Centre (NRMC) of Department of Agriculture, Sri Lanka will use the updated CRAFT for yield forecasting of various crops in different seasons. Scientists from African countries were enthusiastic to test the toolbox for forecasting crop yields in different agricultural systems in East and West Africa.

Badri Khanal, Ministry of Agricultural Development, Nepal, one of the participants at the workshop said

“The uses and benefits of using CRAFT need to be shared with government and research institutes. An attempt will be made to forecast in-season rice yields (2014-2015) using the toolbox.”

The CRAFT maintenance team will work to fix some technical challenges in the software and incorporate feedback from CRAFT users and stakeholders. They have plans to include more crops into CRAFT produced in the region.

Participants’ feedback

Participants expressed appreciation about the toolkit and offered feedback on some issues such as:

Simplifying installation
Including more crop models
Uploading datasets, and
Help and Support

In order to better support stakeholders on using the toolkit, an online support group has also been created.

Further reading:
New tool helps monitor crops in real time

Arun KC is Science Officer at CCAFS South Asia and Paresh Shirsath is Postdoctoral Fellow on Climate Adaptation at CCAFS South Asia