WEATHER FORECASTING FOR AGRICULTURE IN AFRICA, THE BUSINESS CASE?
Weather information is a priority for farmers, whether they use irrigation or not. It should be localised, timely and accurate enough, to make the information relevant at field level. In Africa, this is often not the case, although there are information providers, such as aWhere (https://www.awhere.com/) and Weather Impact (https://www.weatherimpact.com/) that are active on the continent.
There is a clear need for local meteorological stations, not only for increasing the density of the meteorological observation network, but also for other parameters. To give an example: humidity is very important for to assess the conditions in which late blight disease in potatoes can occur (information derived from satellites only is not accurate enough).
An organisation that aims at filling this gap is TAHMO (https://tahmo.org/). TAHMO has now 400 stations and plans to go to 20,000 meteorological stations quickly.
But who pays for all this? Cooperation with national meteo agencies is a must, but the budget available is limited. Advertising, as with weather forecasting in developed countries (e.g. buienradar (shower radar) in the Netherlands) is not an option in Africa. In addition, these applications provide their information on the web, while in Africa transmission through SMS and IVR would be more appropriate and needs to be done in the local language(s).
An option is to provide weather forecasting in combination with other services. This could be an inclusive model, paid for in combination with other services in a package, such as agricultural advice. Another option is to make use of a loyalty model: offer weather forecasting in combination with fertiliser or pesticides (paid for by the supplier of these inputs).
Weather forecasting can also be considered as a public good. It can then be offered in a service model, paid for by the government, such as the AgriCloud app (https://www.rain4africa.org/) (a cooperation between the South African Weather Service (SAWS), Hydrologic and others that provides very important and much needed information on the start of the rainy season. See also “Get this weather app on your cell phone” by Nico Kroese (https://www.grainsa.co.za/get-this-weather-app-on-your-cell-phone-2). Here the government has to step in to perform a public function by reducing risk and increasing production and, of course, by paying for the service.
And all this does not even take the context of climate change into account that makes weather forecasting even more important and relevant.
Written by Mark Noort.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement No.776691. The opinions expressed on the web page are of the authors only and no way reflect the European Commission’s opinions. The European Union is not liable for any use that may be made of the information.