In 2020, 2SCALE partnered with a tropical weather forecasting company-Ignitia, to provide innovative agtech tools like weather forecasting to improve productivity, mitigate risks/losses, and increase the profitability of smallholder farmers. It was rolled out as a pilot to over 600 smallholder farmers in the Faranaya and Kedan partnerships in Ghana.
The weather forecasts provide farmers with vital information needed to mitigate risk and create resilience in the farming business. Forecasts are sent via SMS either daily or monthly. Farmers also receive seasonal forecasts based on fluctuating weather patterns. Coordinates are taken at the farm level, making the forecasts farmer-based and therefore accurate, and reliable. Such timely and accurate weather information supports farmers in planning their crop calendars, such as the best time for planting, spraying, and application of fertilizer, therefore, increasing their potential to maximize productivity.
During the pilot phase which ran throughout the 2020 farming season, 2SCALE facilitated the provision of the weather forecast information to sorghum and maize farmers to help them better plan farm activities. Farmers reported that they made significant improvements to their farming practices and decision-making by utilizing the weather forecast information to determine the timing of farming activities. Following the adoption of the service, farmers disclosed that they saw overall yield improvements compared to previous years. Maize farmers recorded an average yield increase of 21 percent while sorghum farmers reported a 17 percent yield increase!
In 2021, key focus was put on educating farmers on the need to farm smart and be resilient to climate variability by subscribing and paying for the service. Ignitia forecast for farmers is provided on a 24 to 48-hour basis at a cost of 20-40p ($ 0.025-0.05) per alert, which, over an entire season, adds up to less than 2 percent of a farmer’s total expenditure on inputs.
Following the success of the pilot in 2020, a total of 1,100 farmers registered with the Business Champions for the service. This was done on a cost-sharing basis whereby farmers pay 50% in cash, and the rest is paid by the Business Champion, to be repaid as produce of equal value during aggregation. In the Faranaya partnership, 535 youth and 465 women subscribed to the weather alert services while 60 youth and 40 women from the Kedan partnership subscribed to the services.
The cost-sharing proved useful to both parties since farmers were able to effectively plan their farming activities, thereby increasing the quality and quantity of yields. For the Business Champions, this arrangement led to increased trust and loyalty by the farmers who only sell their produce to them. This was a tremendous step towards delivering adequate quality and quantities based on the needs of their off-takers.
A winning strategy for increased productivity
Luri Asana, a maize and groundnut farmer in Taffiasi, shares the impact the weather forecast has had on her farming activities:
About two years ago, I lost two bags of fertilizer because heavy rain fell, right after I had applied fertilizer to my farm. This was despite all indications showing that there was no chance of rain. I could not afford to buy any more fertilizer and that really affected my yield that year. Since I started using the weather alert services, my yield has increased significantly because I do not only apply fertilizer at the right time, but I’m also able to plan my planting, weeding, and harvesting periods as per the weather. It has really been helpful.
Since her yield has increased, Asana is now able to cater for her children’s education and overall livelihood.
A majority of the farmers were most excited about the accuracy of the service and their improved abilities to plan their farming activities. They were able to reduce the loss of fertilizer and crops related to harvesting due to improved planning with the weather forecasts. They also used the seasonal forecasts to inform them of the best crop variety for upcoming seasons, as well as the timing for purchasing and sowing of seeds.