Weather intelligence for smart water use
The tropics are home to over a billion farmers, many of whom live on less than USD 2 a day. Their fields are predominantly rain-fed, and anywhere from 20% to 80% of their potential yield is lost each year due to weather. With access to high-quality weather forecasts, these farmers could choose the best times to plant, fertilise and harvest. But global weather models do not accurately predict weather in tropical regions and, according to GSMA, a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, national meteorological agencies in most developing countries have underinvested in weather stations. Smallholder farmers suffer most from the lack of reliable, ground-level data, a problem compounded by recent changes in weather patterns and climate change.
Ignitia uses information and communication technology (ICT) to enable its customer base of 330 000 small-scale farmers in West Africa to better manage their water use using the most accurate weather-related information available. When the seasonal outlook predicts drier conditions, users can buy drought-resistant seeds, which are expensive but help ensure crop survival. When the daily forecast predicts heavy rain, they can delay using fertilisers or spraying pesticides to keep such expensive inputs from being washed away. Better-informed decisions improve the farmers’ yields and, ultimately, their livelihoods.
Ignitia has struck partnerships with mobile network operators in Ghana, Mali and Nigeria through which farmers can sign up and pay just two cents a day to receive GPS-specific weather information by SMS. It also partners with agricultural organisations to test and iterate its product and enter new markets.
In addition to delivering more accurate forecasts, Ignitia's solution is 97% automated and relies mainly on satellite data, making it significantly cheaper to make and to use. The company is able to scale up quickly by keeping costs low, making sign-up simple and using an SMS platform in a region where mobile phones outnumber people.
GOALS AND EXPECTED IMPACT
By the end of 2019, Ignitia aims to reach 1.2 million farmers, scaling up its operations in Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Nigeria and launching operations in Ivory Coast and Niger. It also plans to boost its already high customer ratings and to launch a randomised controlled trial to measure its impacts.