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Water and weather monitoring services for cocoa farmers in Ghana

ARF1.3-6 Water and weather monitoring services for cocoa farmers in Ghana
Image: via Flickr (by: CIFOR)
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Duration: 01 November 2014 – 14 October 2016. This project has been finalized. 

Project information

Aim: Improving access to reliable information from water and weather forecasts, based on data from on-the-ground monitoring stations as well as satellite data with cocoa as the primary aim.

Objective: To help farmers better manage their crops.

Method: To deploy a self-supporting climate observation system that exists of a low-cost weathers station combined with mobile information services.

Country: Ghana.

Dutch policy goal: Increased sustainable agricultural production.

Progress reports

Year 2: Weather constitutes the major production risk in agriculture, yet locally relevant weather data is largely absent. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) estimates that Africa has only one weather station per 26,000 km2, while one weather station is capable to measure climate up to 1,000 km2 and satellite data alone is not sufficient. To enable agricultural producers to be more resilient to climate change for their business, access to high-precision weather data (smart agriculture) must be improved.
This project seeks to improve access of Ghana’s cocoa farmers to reliable information from water and weather forecasts, based on data from on-the-ground monitoring stations as well as satellite data. By providing the farmers with relevant accurate weather information, they are enabled to better manage their crops and enhance their produce. The access to improved weather information was made possible by the deployment a self-supporting climate observation system that exists of a low-cost weathers station combined with mobile information services.

Year 3: To help farmers get reliable information from water and weather forecasts, this project has installed 28 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) at schools in Ghana, which provide weather data to a central database. Teachers and students at the schools were involved to ensure that the available curriculum material on how to use the weather stations lands in the local context. An online platform has been developed to link schools with weather stations to other schools in Europe and the US to share their knowledge on climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, Ghana) joined the project team on some of the School outreach programmes on climate change. Additional experimental sensors will be tested that enhance the quality of satellite observations.

Services to farmers
From January 2016, the wheater stations were tested, with the telecom operators of Vodafone giving the team access to their communication masts. A Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model will be run over the cocoa region of Ghana, using assimilation of locally measured parameters, complemented by satellite data. FarmerLine will use its existing infrastructure and customer base to provide accurate weather forecasts and related services to farmers. A platform has been developed. Connecting this platform to the farmers is in the testing phase. The testing phase starts after the WRF model has been started in October.

Business cases
Business development workshops have been held to promote entrepreneurship on food security through the use of the weather data. Interviews and focus group discussions have pinpointed the best business opportunities for weather data in the cocoa region. Three business cases will be coached. Also, the research team facilitated a co-creation session with about 60 farmers at Kona in the Ashanti Region. Workshops and surveys assessed the usefulness of the weather data based services and what additional information would be valuable. Interviews will be held with potential intermediaries (banks, micro-credit companies, insurers, agrochemical companies) to determine what the most promising additional services would be. These services will be developed.

Final report

Summary of the results: To help cocoa farmers better manage their crops, it is necessary to have reliable weather forecasts. This project deployed a self-supporting weather observation system in Ghana, based on low-cost high-precision weather sensors, sending information to a web-based data server using cell phone technology. 50 innovative weather stations were installed at schools to secure the safety and maintenance of the stations and to add value to climate education. The stations measure meteorological and water resource variables and produce data that was combined with satellite-data to improve models for meteorological forecasts. The forecast were subsequently communicated to farmers in local languages via voice-based messages to support their decision-making for farm activities and hence better manage their limited resources and increase crop productivity. The farmers indicated that receiving weather updates helps their farming business mainly in terms of ‘Planting of Cocoa Seedlings’; ‘Fertilizer Application’; ‘Spraying & Insecticide Application’, ‘Drying of harvested cocoa’; ‘Growing of Other crops’ and ‘Other Social Applications’. Besides farmers, other value chain actors such as insurance companies expressed strong interest in the weather data and related services which are being tested and implemented.

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