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 conceived as 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 draw farmers to “guess the start of the rains,” stirring up a national discussion on the relevance of weather forecast 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 more often than not lead to massive losses that threaten farmers livelihoods. A ten-day planting delay could reduce yield by up to 50%. However, even with the increasing number of organisations offering climate information services, until now, only a small portion of farmers receive large-scale provision of big data-driven agronomic advice. This can be attributed to the lack of morale and incentives to endear farmer to use these vital tools.
To address this issue, the project proposes to initiate innovative incentive mechanisms for the adoption of agro-weather advisories and crowd-sourcing using Shamba Shape Up and iShamba platforms. To take part in the “Let it rain” contest, farmers will need to subscribe to iShamba, becoming freemium members through the process, with the option of joining the premium service at 600 Ksh a year. The Fremium service will include weekly information for two commodities of choice, two x prices for market of choice, and weekly weather forecast. All iShamba members will have access to the call centre seven days a week or can SMS questions that will be 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 data base 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. Going forward, as the quality of prediction in terms of start of the rains improves the data will then be made available on Shamba Shape Up and iShamba to advise on planting dates and other agronomical information for crops. In order to provide weather forecast and optimal planting date advisory, CIAT will work with KALRO’s Big Data Weather platform and CIP.
Step by step
The project was one of five winners of the Inspire Challenge 2019 and was awarded US$100K at the inaugural annual convention of the CGIAR Platform Big Data in Agriculture, during 16-18 of October.