Empowering smallholder farmers to improve food security and economic growth through multi-node weather stations and mobile phone technology by tackling the lack of reliable and accurate weather information. It is also designed to assist with climate change adaptation and mitigation. 

It tackles the well-known problem of a lack of reliable, accurate weather  information available to smallholder farmers who do not have access to the internet. It is also designed to assist with climate change adaptation and mitigation. 

It addresses the problem through a network of mini weather stations and mobile phone technology that allows for smallholder farmers to get instantaneous weather updates and sustainable agriculture information through basic mobile phones and to also submit data to the system on prevailing weather conditions in their areas to improve the system's accuracy and reliability.

Through improved food security, economic growth and climate change adaptation and mitigation it intersects planet, peace and prosperity.

Despite recent rains, Southern Africa is still caught up in a severe drought, threatening the livelihood of small holder farmers and food security of millions of people, especially in rural areas where there is no access to the internet.

The dependency of the economy on climate means that accurate weather forecasts and climate change monitoring are in high demand. Agriculture contributes 32.3% of GDP in low income countries and 16.7% in lower middle income countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa rain fed agriculture accounts for 97% of total agricultural land and 91% of total agricultural production.

Sub-Saharan Africa needs 13,000 weather stations. In reality there are only an estimated 500 that are functioning and reporting. Weather monitoring and forecasting tools are key for economic growth and food security. However, people in rural areas rely on meteorological agencies with low capacity and obsolete technologies. The need for accurate weather advisory is made greater by climate change due to its Environmental and Humanitarian Impact: Due to more frequent droughts/floods – e.g. the Malawi floods wiped out 90000 hectares resulting in 2.8 million people (17% of the population) requiring food assistance. Also to consider is the Economic Impact: Prices for staple crops will rise – rice, wheat, maize (most reactive to increasing CO2) resulting that in Africa food prices may increase by up to 12% (2030).

  • Most emerging markets lack the ground level data required to create localised forecasts:
  • Current weather forecasts are created by super computers using data provided by satellites - which are out of reach to most smallholder farmers.
  • Weather stations are required for calibration and to create localised forecasts.

 Around the world, there are ~66,000 stations but most developing world countries lack the necessary weather station infrastructure. 

Achieving SDG 1 - an end to poverty - will require large scale investment in small holder farmers and supplying them with accurate, reliable information. Ending poverty, ensuring food security and improving economic growth will contribute to achieving peace and prosperity for populations globally.

Farmers need:

1. Localised weather data collection and forecasts via mobile
2. Weather adaptive, climate smart advice via mobile
3. Digitisation of weather
4. Reliable information on sustainable agriculture.
Currently all mini weather stations are single node stations that require internet connection, are expensive, has limited sensing capability and operate as single stations and not part of a network of stations. A need has arisen for the development of an integrated weather station that operates autonomously on solar power and that can send live periodic updates via a cell phone network to a central database. The data can then be extrapolated and processed, to build weather models and track the change in climate. The information can also be made available to farmers for instantaneous weather predictions, and contribute to short and long-term climate change mitigation and adaptation.
A typical weather station (single-node) would consist of a solar panel, a robust weather proof container for the electronics, cell phone modem and various sensors to measure for instance: 

• Temperature
• Barometric Pressure
• Humidity
• Wind speed and direction
• Rain fall
• Soil moisture
• UV and cloud cover

Collecting data and communication with farmers are done via USSD technology. Unstructured Supplementary Service Data is a simple, inexpensive, real time, menu driven technology that works on all kinds of mobile phones and does not require internet.
To validate data collected from sensors, data is also collected from farmers.

To ensure data is localised, both mini weather stations and farmers are provided with a 3-word address using what3word technology. What3Words is a global location system using a grid of 3x3m squares that have been pre-assigned a 3-word address linked to its exact GPS location.
This project wil be pilot tested in 3 districts with funding from the Hivos Idea Acellerator.