Tropical weather-forecasting technology seeks to improve agricultural yields in West Africa

13 Jul 2016, 12:00 am
Financial Nigeria


Iska is the world's first tropical weather-forecasting technology developed by Ignitia.

An African farmer

An award-winning innovative solution for weather forecasting, Iska, seeks to expand in more countries in West Africa to enable farmers in the region improve their agricultural yields.

Iska is the world's first tropical weather-forecasting technology developed by Ignitia, a Swedish technology company and social enterprise. The company was formed in 2010 with a research team of physicist and meteorologists to tackle the problem of accurately predicting weather in the tropics.

The first trial of Iska was launched in Ghana in 2013 and it has won several awards since then, including a $5,000 prize money at the first Agricultural Innovation Investment Summit, which was held in Washington DC on June 1-2, 2016. It was organised by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other partners such as Powering Agriculture, Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation and Securing Water for Food – which is funded by USAID, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Government of South Africa, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

Iska is currently being subscribed to by 12 million farmers in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal – assisting them in the planning and timing of their farming activities including sowing, fertilizer application and crop harvesting.

As a mobile phone-based innovation, farmers subscribed to the Iska weather forecasting solution receive daily forecasts via SMS. Farmers are charged in instalments from airtime they purchase from the partnering telecom provider.

The developers say farmers can reduce risk, increase yield and optimize usage of inputs by accurately predicting weather and seasons.

“Using the forecasts more than doubled my yield last year. I normally collect 10-15 bags of cocoa, but last year, because I was able to spray fertiliser and pesticide at the right times, I was able to collect more than 30 bags of cocoa,” Enoch Addo, a cocoa farmer from Ghana told SciDev.Net – a leading source of news and information about science and technology for global development.

Ignitia wants to expand Iska to 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa after receiving $2.5 million grant from the USAID-backed Securing Water for Food programme.

According to the developers, the forecasting system gives on average 84 percent accuracy in West Africa, which is twice more accurate compared to other forecasting models.

Lizzie Merrill, Ignitia's Project Manager, told SciDev.Net that Iska has had a significantly positive impact on women farmers in West Africa by lowering the barriers to tech adoption.  


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