Ouabouè Bakouan | September 29, 2023
Daniel Somda, a maize farmer, scans the grey sky. You can see the worry on his face. It has been over a week since it rained in Pontiéba this July. His three hectares of maize are beginning to wilt, despite his efforts to retain best manage the available water. But Mr. Somda is not giving up hope, having received a SMS on his phone from the National Meteorological Agency the day before. These alerts provide information about the expected weather and are intended for the general public. Mr. Somda says: "It helps me decide whether or not to apply inputs to my field. For example, if I apply a plant protection treatment and it rains afterwards, the products may be washed away. Weather data is good information that guides me in my agricultural production."
It’s six o’clock in the morning in Pontiéba, a village in the commune of Dano about 250 kilometres from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Daniel Somda, a maize farmer, scans the grey sky. You can see the worry on his face. It has been over a week since it rained in Pontiéba this July. His three hectares of maize are beginning to wilt, despite his efforts to best manage the available water.
But Mr. Somda is not giving up hope, having received a SMS on his phone from the National Meteorological Agency the day before. These alerts provide information about the expected weather. Mr. Somda says: “It helps me decide whether or not to apply inputs to my field. For example, if I apply a plant protection treatment and it rains afterwards, the product may be washed away. Weather data is good information that guides me in my agricultural production.”
Mr. Somda and other local producers use these weather alerts to improve their farming production. They have been receiving the messages for the past five years through a project called “Scaling up climate-smart agriculture and land-use practices to improve regional production systems in West Africa.”
Mr. Somda is one of the project focal points in Pontiéba. He explains how he shares weather alerts with other farmers: “As soon as there is important information on the weather, I receive an alert message on my phone. I inform the other producers in my area so that it can be widely distributed.”
There are four project focal points in Pontiéba who share weather information. Focal points inform at least 100 producers as soon as they receive a weather alert. These producers in turn alert others by word of mouth. To facilitate their work, the project has provided the focal points with mobile phones and regularly recharges them.
Mr. Somda explains how weather alerts are useful to him: “With weather alerts, I know the rainfall forecast in advance. This allows me to make decisions at different times in the crop cycle, from sowing to harvesting.” He notes that, for example, he was producing barely six tons of maize on his three hectares, but by using alerts, he has almost doubled his yield.
Weather information helps Pontiéba growers like Mr. Somda to make decisions and plan their production. Harouna Koné is a senior agricultural technician in charge of weather monitoring for the project’s growers. Mr. Koné explains: “In collaboration with the National Meteorological Agency, we select information such as the probability of rainfall, according to the needs of our producers. We transfer the information to the focal points, who in turn share it with the other producers concerned.” He says the information helps growers plan their application of chemicals, establish irrigation schedules, combat diseases and pests, and make other decisions such as choosing which crop varieties to grow, setting dates for sowing, choosing which crops to intercrop, forecasting likely harvest dates, and managing post-harvest activities.
Mr. Somda is happy to contribute to the success of the project and his fellow farmers by sharing information. But he points out that the poor quality of the telephone network sometimes means that messages arrive late. Despite this difficulty, Mr. Somda believes that such weather alerts are useful in this era of climate change.
He concludes: “I hope that all growers will take ownership of the project in view of its benefits.”
This story was produced with support from ViMPlus, or the Victory Against Malnutrition Plus Activity, which is part of USAID’s RISE II program (Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced II) program, which helps vulnerable communities in Burkina Faso and Niger to prepare for and manage recurrent crises and to find sustainable ways out of poverty. ViMPlus is managed and implemented by ACDI/VOCA.