The new weather forecast model has been developed particularly for small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.
Photo: © Ignitia

Rising farmers’ yields with SMS weather forecasting

Ignitia, a high-technology social enterprise, has recently developed a highly accurate tropical weather forecast model benefiting small-scale farmers in West Africa. Daily forecasts are being sent out via SMS text messages, helping farmers to sow and harvest crops at optimum time.

Small-scale farmers in the tropics have limited access to reliable weather forecasts, which seriously constrains their ability to plan farming activities. To fill this gap, Ignitia, a high-technology social enterprise, based in Sweden, has created a forecasting model that generates reliable, GPS-specific weather forecasts which sent to customers via SMS.

The innovation, called iska, is being used in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. Ignitia now wants to expand into other West Africa countries, using a USD 2.5 million grant from Securing Water for Food, funded by the governments of the United States, Sweden, South Africa, and the Netherlands.

Each iska forecast is tailor-made for a specific farmer’s location by an automated application that fetches the most common GPS co-ordinate for each subscriber. Farmers are then sent unique forecasts by SMS in text-lite format, which can be received by any basic mobile phone. The farmers are charged the equivalent of USD 0.04 per day for the service; they can pay in micro-instalments from pre-paid mobile credit.

Lizzie Merrill, project manager at Ignitia, says that iska is one of the first forecasting systems to produce highly accurate weather predictions for the tropics. “Traditional global weather models have only been able to predict weather in the tropics with 39 per cent accuracy – not good enough for a population of three billion people, up to 80 per cent of whom are small-scale farmers,” she adds and points out that Ignitia’s weather forecast model has a weather prediction accuracy rate of 84 per cent.

According to the Ignitia website, iska is currently accessible to twelve million subscribers in West Africa. The technology is ready to be offered in 14 more countries with an easy scalable business model that reaches a large majority of the West African small-scale farmers.
iska was recently placed second at the United States Agency for International Development and the partners’ first Agricultural Innovation Investment Summit, which was held in Washington D.C. in the United States in June, winning a USD 5,000 prize.

(Scidev/The Guardian/ignitia/wi)

For more information: Ignitia

Link to article in The Guardian