Communications for development

G. Smith (CIAT)

Getting climate-smart information to rice farmers by mobile phone

Southeast Asia

Mobile phone applications are increasing being used by farmers to help them make informed—and, now, climate-smart—decisions. The Rice Crop Manager (RCM) from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is one such decision-making tool that can be accessed via smartphone or computer with an internet connection. In response to a series of questions, it provides farmers in South and Southeast Asia with customized advice on crop management practices best suited to their specific rice-growing conditions and needs. In 2014 IRRI researchers working under CCAFS developed a climate-smart component to the RCM to help farmers further. The researchers worked closely with universities and government agencies in Vietnam.

A mobile phone app provides small-scale rice, wheat and maize farmers with customized crop and nutrient management advice

A mobile phone app provides small-scale rice, wheat and maize farmers with customized crop and nutrient management advice. IRRI

A new climate-smart component is being developed, called Climate-Informed Rice Crop Low Emission (CIRCLE). This can allow the RCM to include information on climate-adjusted crop yields, climate and environmental risks and low-emission options for rice cultivation. This would open the door to offer farmers agro-meteorological advice for pest and disease prevention. Adding historical climate data could also help farmers make decisions on crop management adjustments in the current cropping season, while seasonal weather forecasting would help them determine optimal planting times and the best crop establishment practices, such as direct seeding or transplanting for rainfed rice. Water level monitoring and water quality data collected through sensors could also provide further decision-making information.

During an initial testing period in Vietnam involving 60 farmers from different categories, including 15 women, the majority of participants found the CIRCLE questions to be easy and interesting. A total of 96% agreed that all questions were relevant to their situation and 78% believed that the recommendations could help them improve their management practices.

Feedback from 16 staff and 2 managers at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development was also very positive. Of the extension staff, 79% found the tool and the interview process with farmers satisfactory and 14% found it very satisfactory; 93% thought the RCM was very practical and useful for extension. RCM puts the power of technology into farmers’ hands and helps them make tricky crop management decisions in the face of climate change challenges.

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