Swedish technology company and social enterprise Ignitia has teamed up with Business Call to Action (BCtA) to send tropical weather forecasts via text message to 1.2 million small-scale west African farmers by the end of 2017.
The BCtA is backed by the UNDP and encourages businesses to include poverty-level populations and help to achieve sustainable development goals.
Founded in 2010 as a physics and meteorologist research team, Ignitia offers weather forecasts to prepare west African farmers for inclement weather.
The company has since developed algorithms that provide weather forecasts to 3,400 small-scale farmers in Ghana – with an 82 percent level of accuracy, compared to the 39 percent standard, according to Ignitia .
Here’s how it works: Ignitia’s weather forecasts are reported through Iska as text messages and are sent directly to small-scale farmers throughout tropical regions. Each forecast is tailored to a specific farmer’s crop location via an automated application that finds its GPS coordinates.
Farmers receive these forecasts by subscribing to an SMS service for $0.04 per day that can be paid in installments or from pre-paid credit on a mobile phone. This equals less than two percent of a farmer’s total expenditures, according to The Guardian.
Iska offers warnings of heavy rains and dry spells, specific start and end dates for the rainy season and provides two-day forecasts to west African farmers daily, in addition to a monthly outlook report and two six-month seasonal reports.
About 40 percent of the world’s population lives in the tropics where most livelihoods come from small-scale farming, with sub-Saharan African farmers seeing the lowest yields in the world.
Since tropical weather conditions can change drastically in a short amount of time, monitoring crops can be a tricky task for farmers. Changes in weather patterns and the unpredictability of severe weather make traditional farming methodologies less dependable.
Iska’s short-mid and long-range forecast messaging offers these farmers a vital way of adapting to climate change. The Guardian reports that at least 20 percent of yields are lost due to weather, but meteorology updates like the ones Iska provides can help increase a farmer’s income by 80 percent.
In West Africa, Iska demonstrated an 84 percent accuracy rate during the 2013 and 2014 rainy seasons, according to Ignitia.
“With Iska, smallholder farmers receive the vital information they need to mitigate risk and create resilience. In doing so, farmers are able to increase yields and improve their livelihoods, year after year,” said Liisa Petrykowska, Ignitia’s chief executive officer.
Ignitia has provided over six million weather forecasts to 80,000 small-time African farmers and plans to expand its services to 20 other countries throughout Southeast Asia, Central America and other regions of Africa.
– Kelsey Lay