Capacity development and innovative communication

C. Schubert (CCAFS)

Weather-smart phone apps, weather-smart farmers

East Africa
West Africa
Priorities and Policies for CSA
Climate Services and Safety Nets

Survey after survey has shown that farmers want to get their hands on sound information on what to expect weather-wise. CCAFS scientists at the Walker Institute, Reading University, have researched ways to capitalize on increasingly affordable smart phones and tablets to respond to this demand. But farming is very location-specific. The Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach developed by CCAFS has already helped thousands of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa make informed decisions based on locally relevant weather and crop information. Given the success of PICSA, a CCAFS team set out to develop mobile phone apps that deliver better information about weather and climate for a particular area.

In 2015, scientists developed 2 apps for non-government staff, extension officers and seed suppliers to use when advising farmers in Ghana, Malawi and Tanzania. Previous research had shown that trusted intermediaries who understand local conditions can help farmers interpret complex weather and climate information.

C. Schubert (CCAFS)

The first app, Historical Climate Tool, allows users to select information on extremely wet or dry years, or long or short seasons in a specific location and to find out the probability of these events recurring in the near future. Based on the probable weather, farmers can consider crop and livestock options. The second app, Participatory Budget Tool, allows farmers to compare budgets for the different options, with easy-to-use features like a drag-and-drop interface, budget templates and an automatic cash balance calculator.

“Through participatory planning methods and budgets, [farmers] are encouraged to decide how to use their new knowledge based on what works for them.” Peter Dorward, Project Leader, University of Reading

Staff of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) field tested the 2 apps with groups of 30–40 male and female farmers in 6 communities in northern Ghana. Irrespective of literacy levels, farmers were able to use the apps successfully.

The research showed that the prospects for providing farmers with timely, locally relevant weather information through the 2 mobile phone apps are good. The demand is there. Once trained by staff of non-governmental organizations or extension officers, farmers would be able to use the intuitive, user-friendly apps to get better results from their efforts.