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Climate Edge launches SMS Weather Forecast for Smallholder Farmers

If you are able to read this post, you have access to a device and the internet and probably use it every day. And you probably never thought about the difficulty of obtaining everyday information because most of it is so easily available to us at a click of a button.

One example of this is access to a location based weather forecast (now a core feature of every smartphone) which we might use to plan a weekend trip, decide if we should take an umbrella or if we need to water the garden.

But what if you business or even your livelihood depends heavily on the weather and making the right decisions based on it? Farmers all over the world use the weather forecast to plan and execute important farm and crop management activities: when to apply fertiliser, irrigate, harvest, etc.

The weather has a very serious impact on many of these and here are only a few examples:

  • Because heavy rain can cause potatoes to rot, planning harvests accordingly is crucial

  • The devastating Potato Late Blight (responsible for the Irish Potato Famine) is triggered by certain weather conditions and an outbreak can be prevented with good weather forecasts and timely action

  • The Coffee Berry Borer, usually burrowed deep inside the coffee cherry, leaves the cherry when it is rainy and humid and can be controlled only then

  • Outbreak of Coffee Leaf Rust, a devastating fungal disease, is triggered by prolonged high temperatures and humidity and can only be avoided by the right management prior to the outbreak

  • Preparing drainage before heavy rains can avoid run-offs and loss of valuable top soil and collecting rain water can support some irrigation needs

  • Fertiliser needs to be applied at the right time: when it is wet enough for it to be absorbed but not too wet for it to be washed away

These are only a few examples of how important the weather is to a whole range of farming activities and how simply having access to weather forecast can massively improve planning and reduce the risk of crop loss.

In partnership with the dutch weather expert Weather Impact

, Climate Edge is delivering a localised 3 day weather forecast to smallholder farmers in Kenya. Because of the low penetration of smartphones and other online devices, the most accessible and scalable delivery method is SMS; and because it is difficult to get a farmers exact location without a GPS device, we have set up an SMS survey which asks a subscribing farmer for the ward their farm is located in. All we need in order to deliver a location specific weather forecast is a farmers phone number and ward (location).

We are in the process of launching this service and will post more updates in the following weeks. Stay tuned!

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