Farmer Climate Adaptation Through Better Weather Information
The Nuru Collective partners with ignitia weather service in Nigeria and Burkina Faso in 2022
Farmers face more risk and uncertainty than nearly any other job on the planet. Weather is one of many unknowns, and the unpredictability of climate change is making it increasingly difficult for farmers to anticipate what will happen in a season and make decisions accordingly.
In areas where the rainy season used to be stable from year to year, rain start and end dates are far less predictable. Even this very season in northeast Nigeria, nearly a month before the rainy season was expected to start, there were heavy rains and even hail. These “false onset” rains, coupled with the fear of rains then stopping early in the fall, can cause farmers to choose to plant earlier than planned. For more than three years, this false onset has been followed by a dry period of 10-15 days, after which the rains become truly established and steady (meaning they come nearly every day through the peak of the rainy season, which ends in October). If crops are planted in this early stage and are at a critical growth stage during a period of no rain, there can be huge yield loss or even crop failure, severely impacting farmers’ incomes and food security.
The Impact of Crucial Weather Information
Better weather information reduces risks and uncertainty related to rainfall for farmers and can limit the damage from pests and disease. The IPCC AR6 report identified improved weather information as a key tool for climate adaptation. “Early warning systems based on targeted climate services can be effective for disaster risk reduction, social protection programs, and managing risks to health and food systems,” the report stated. In an effort to facilitate better access to such information tools, Nuru has launched a partnership with ignitia to bring pilot projects to both Nuru Nigeria and the newly launched Nuru Burkina Faso.
Ignitia offers hyper-local, highly accurate weather forecasts and agricultural advisories to farmers in West Africa through mobile phone networks. This turns the weather from an unpredictable threat into an asset by supporting climate-smart decision making. As farmers in northeast Nigeria and Burkina Faso begin their preparations for the 2022 agricultural season, Nuru is collaborating with ignitia to deliver the iska weather service in both countries. Farmers will receive daily, weekly, and monthly weather forecasts specifically for their farms. In Nigeria, Nuru and ignitia will also expand Nuru’s established in-person agricultural extension services by delivering advisory information via SMS text messages to enrolled farmers. The extension messages will reach simple feature phones and provide information on good agricultural practices, as well as time-specific advice for farmers on activities such as planting and fertilizer application. In Nigeria, approximately 2,000 farmers in northern Adamawa are receiving the weather forecasts and extension messaging. The service reaches active members of Nuru Nigeria-supported farmer organizations for the entirety of the 2022 cropping season, starting from land preparation through to the harvest period.
Impact of weather information for Nigerian farmers
Even though these pilot activities have only recently started in Nigeria, farmers are already seeing the benefit. One Nuru-supported farmer told us about how much he is appreciating the SMS weather alerts he is getting and says he has been impressed by the accuracy.
“When they say it will likely rain today and tomorrow, it used to rain here. It will give us clear advice on when to plant, when not to plant, when to apply fertilizer, when not to apply fertilizer.” -Nuru Nigeria farmer
Nuru-supported farmers receiving the iska forecasts through ignitia have also been sharing the reports with community leaders and neighbors. This spill-over effect is a strong indicator of the value this weather information has to the rural communities where Nuru works.
The ignitia partnership activities in Nigeria are a component of a Nuru Nigeria-led project in partnership with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and co-financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Commission. The GIZ project will establish the agribusiness foundations necessary to launch three professional and profitable farmer organizations supported by Nuru Nigeria.
Launching activities with farmer organizations in Burkina Faso
Nuru’s planned expansion into Burkina Faso has made significant progress in 2022 with the establishment of Nuru Burkina Faso. In year one, Nuru Burkina Faso is launching targeted activities within two communes in the Central Plateau. The new locally-led non-governmental organization (NGO) is building relationships with a network of five to ten farmer organizations to develop their capacity and deliver valuable services to farmers. The cornerstone of these activities for year one is to enroll 1,000 farmers into ignita’s hyper-localized iska weather service translated into the local language. Extension agents and other Nuru staff have access to detailed interactive weather information and high-level monitoring of a forecast platform called ojo. On this platform, customized, targeted messages can be sent to farmers and other groups, which improves farmer loyalty and strengthens relationships with cooperatives and extension officers.
At the same time, Nuru is setting up demonstration plots in high-traffic areas to train farmers in good agronomic practices (GAPs) that can significantly raise crop yields and support long-term soil health. Nuru is also working with local Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) to offer credit to farmers in order to support them during the pre-harvest period.
Digital technology, regenerative agriculture, and locally-led climate adaptation
According to a Global Commission on Adaptation report led by the World Resources Institute, digital advisory services like ignitia’s promote the agency of farmers as decision-makers and effectively reduce risks in the face of climate change. Moreover, the ability to deliver targeted weather and agronomic information via SMS message allows the information to reach more farmers more quickly, in an accessible format, and it reinforces face-to-face extension services provided by Nuru local staff and partners. This is in line with Nuru’s digital development strategy, which identifies and mainstreams appropriate and disruptive technologies. These technologies must create value for farmers and farmer organizations, be easy to use, be cost-effective, create efficiencies, and integrate into other tools and existing infrastructure.
As farmers look for ways to adapt to the effects of climate change, accurate and timely information becomes increasingly valuable. Ignitia’s iska micro-weather forecasts and digital extension services offer farmers access to digital solutions and better information that can accelerate locally-led climate adaptation. The Nuru Collective is committed to building community climate resilience that equips farmers to make meaningful choices on their farms and for their families, meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future.