Enhancing capacity to deliver impact

K. Feijoo (CIAT)

Hackers devise ingenious solutions for Latin America’s smallholder farmers

Latin America

Just as the climate is changing, so are the information needs of smallholder farmers. Whereas farmers used to rely on their trusty almanacs of climate and agricultural data to make decisions about what to plant, where and when, climate change means such almanacs are out of date before the print is even dry.

Climate Change and Food Security Hackathon. In 24 hours 10 teams from 3 countries used CCAFS data to develop decision-making tools.

There is plenty of information that can help farmers make decisions; the problem is in helping farmers to access and apply it. This was the challenge presented to computer programmers and application designers during a 24-hour Hackathon organized by CCAFS, the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) in the run up to COP20 in Lima, Peru.

The Hackathon gave programmers from Colombia, Jamaica and Peru unfettered access to raw data on agriculture and climate, (such as the “CCAFS-Climate” dataset) and paired them with CCAFS and CIAT experts to help them develop applications that would bridge the gap between the scientific community and the rural population of Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Ten years ago, very few people had a cellphone. Nowadays, everybody has one, even in rural areas. The problem is that there are no apps to help producers understand how to deal with the challenges of climate change. The Hackathon helped kick start innovations to close that gap.” Andy Jarvis, senior scientist with CCAFS

The winners of the Hackathon, GeoMelodicos from Colombia, designed a simple web platform combining historical production data, planting dates and climate trends with information about current climate trends and short-term weather forecasts. When developed, it will provide smallholder farmers with more accurate information about what crops to plant, where and when. Because the platform can send information by SMS, it will be possible to reach farmers with the most basic cell phones. With its flawless source code, the Hackathon judges felt that this tool could be widely distributed and adapted for use in other regions.

Hackathon programmers and designers hatched innovative solutions to feed the world during an event at COP20 in Lima, Peru

Hackathon programmers and designers hatched innovative solutions to feed the world during an event at COP20 in Lima, Peru. Karina Feijoo (CIAT)

The winning and runner-up proposals, currently in development, were also shared with policy makers and researchers from the region.

“What we saw was really promising … These are the kinds of innovations that we need to systematize information and make informed decisions to address food insecurity and climate change issues in the agricultural sector.” Edwin Rojas, Director of the Climate Change Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food of Guatemala.