Gamifying weather forecasting: “Let it rain” campaign
The Inspire Challenge is an initiative to challenge partners, universities, and others to use CGIAR data to create innovative pilot projects that will scale. We look for novel approaches that democratize data-driven insights to inform local, national, regional, and global policies and applications in agriculture and food security in real time; helping people–especially smallholder farmers and producers–to lead happier and healthier lives.
This proposal was selected as a 2019 winner, with the team receiving 100,000 USD to put their ideas into practice.
The “Let it rain” campaign is a platform that will gamify weather prediction to incentivize farmers uptake of localised agro-advisories and help crowdsource weather information, which, when run through machine learning, will further improve weather forecasts.
Using Mediae’s popular farm make-over TV show Shamba Shape Up, the campaign will encourage farmers to guess the start of the rains, stirring up a national discussion on the relevance of weather forecasts and helping build farmer profiles for later providing customised climate info.
The changing climate in East Africa coupled with the lack of timely and reliable agricultural information reaching farmers has led to inappropriate planting dates, which can lead to massive losses that threaten farmers’ livelihoods. A ten-day planting delay can reduce yield by up to 50%.
Even with an increasing number of organisations offering climate information services, only a small portion of farmers receive large-scale provision of big data-driven agronomic advice.
To address this issue, the project proposes to initiate innovative incentive mechanisms for the adoption of agro-weather advisories and crowd-sourcing using the Shamba Shape Up and iShamba platforms.
To take part in the “Let it rain” contest, farmers will need to subscribe to iShamba, becoming free members through the process, with the option of joining the premium service (600 KSh per year). The free service includes weekly information for two commodities of choice, two market prices of choice, and a weekly weather forecast. All iShamba members will have access to the call centre seven days a week and can send SMS questions that are answered by trained agronomists within 24 hours.
Reviewing the pool of farmers who submitted their predictions on the start of the rains through the “Let in rain” contest, and drawing from iShamba’s database of 275,000 users, the project will then select three groups of 1,500 farmers in one county, and ask them whether they would like to participate in a study on potato growing. The study will focus on the best planting date in relation to the start of the rains and other agronomic management activities that help farmers adapt to climate change in potato productions. Each of the three groups will receive different levels of information.
As the ability to predict the start of the rain improves, the data will be made available on Shamba Shape Up and iShamba to advise on planting dates and other agronomic information for crops. In order to provide weather forecast and optimal planting date advisory, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT will work with Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization’s (KALRO) Big Data Weather Platform and the International Potato Center (CIP).
Step by step
The project was one of four winners of the Inspire Challenge 2019 and was awarded US$100K at the Convention of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture, during 16-18 October, 2019.
Selection of counties
Ten counties in Kenya were selected as the project’s focus region. The counties were chosen to fairly represent various regions.
Originally, the selection included two additional counties in western Kenya. However, rains in western Kenya have continued from the short rainy season in October, so they were removed as start date is not relevant given the situation.
Weather data analysis
The CIAT team has begun analysis of 10 years of weather data (from aWhere, facilitated by shared services of BIG DATA Platform), to see what the algorithms would say is the historical start of the rainy season.
25 ml of rain would be needed in one day to trigger the start of the rainy season for the algorithm. Based on the analysis, the latest onset in any of the ten included counties would be mid-April, and central counties would experience onset in late-March.
In collaboration with Usiku Games, a gaming studio based in Nairobi, a game has been developed to facilitate a two-way conversation with farmers about changing weather patterns, the effects, and mitigation strategies.
Farmers will receive a SMS prompting them to input their guesses and responses to follow-up questions via a chatbot created by the team.
The aim is to reach 100,000 players. 1,000 USD will be awarded to the winner(s) in each county. Each player that correctly guesses the rainy season start date in their ward will split the prize. Winners will be announced staggered, as the rains start.
Let the games begin
The game will be launched during the second weekend of February 2020, in tandem with this season’s launch of the Shamba Shape Up TV program.
The game will be advertised via video ads (skits) shown three times throughout the episodes. The game will also be promoted on the online iShamba platform, as well as through the Mediae Company Twitter and Facebook.
The team is looking into brining in weather forecast data (from aWhere and the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization) in order to provide a simple, five-day forecast via a new weather segment on the Shamba Shape Up program, unique for each region. Additionally, farmers could potentially get the weather forecast through the iShamba platform.
This program could also include info on climate adaptation, rainwater harvesting, and conservation agriculture.
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