Planting Hope: Building sustainable communities by improving farming solutions in rural Sub-Saharan Africa with rain weather forecasts

Poverty stricken countries rely on agriculture for survival yet subsistence farmers lack essential resources to improve their livelihood.

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

FarmersFirst Africa

Year founded

2016

Initiative stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $50k - $100k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 50 - 100

Organization type

  • Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector

Secondary Focus Area

  • Nutrition

Headquarters location: Country

  • United States of America

Headquarters location: City

Dover, New Hampshire

Location(s) of impact

Central African Republic: Boali
Zimbabwe: Harare

Website

http://www.farmersfirstafrica.org

Facebook URL

https://www.facebook.com/africafarmersfirst/

Twitter URL

https://twitter.com/Farmers1st

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Food insecurity; as a result of unstable food markets, commodity prices and heavy rain and floods. Unexpected weather patterns can result in spoiled food drying, fertilizer run-off, disrupted travel, and malarial shock. Lacking resources to mitigate the risks and damages from unexpected weather, farmers are unable to sell their harvest, leading to much of the population deprived of essential food and resources for survival. Consequently, daily planning is heavily dependent on access to accurate weather forecasts.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

FarmersFirst Africa (FFA) aims to provide and distribute timely, relevant and actionable weather forecasts to subsistence farmers to enable better decision making on – and off – the farm. Using predictive analytics, advance meteorological models, and a network of rain gauges, we are developing a unique program that produces highly accurate forecasts and software that disseminates this information on mobile or radio in the farmers’ native language.

To build sustainable communities, we aim to improve the agricultural sector by expanding the capacity of subsistence farmers to enable agronomical success. Rather than solely focusing on tackling hunger and deprivation through seed distribution, our forecasting program enables subsistence farmers to access free and reliable weather data, cultivates agricultural knowledge and furthermore develops meteorological literacy across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

We are operational in Central African Republic (CAR) - our pilot country. We have been running weather broadcasts with a local shortwave radio station as our broadcast medium with the potential to reach over 1 Million listeners across the country. To ensure long-term capacity building, we are partnered with the University of Bangui and the Ministry of Agriculture – both organizations with strong scientific reputations in the agricultural community and both share a commitment to support distributed Internet and Communication Technology (ICT) applications. . Socially, choosing when to plant, lay fertilizer, or even stay warm at home and wait out the storm will become decisions that farmers now can make confidently as a result of our work. Environmentally, loss of productivity, crops, and even life are all better managed when one has access to weather information that is reliable, intelligible, and accurate. FFA believes farmers are in the best situation to make their own decisions.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

We are in the early stages of implementation. Our current efforts have raised over $50,000 to support operations, planning, and software development. We are seeking funding for further program development in Central African Republic (CAR) and expansion to other countries. The biggest cost to our program is set-up. Once the rain-gauge networks on are installed, the cost to process and deliver the forecasts are nominal.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

We have one goal in mind – sustainability. Sustainability means the long-term use of our solution to benefit the recipients. To reach this goal, our program incorporates the ‘three-legs-of-the-stool’ – ground truth data, state-of-the-industry data science, and a medium to broadcast in the native language; all designed to ensure usefulness, intelligibility, and long-term adoption. Information is broadcasted to at no cost to our farmers through our application delivering next day forecasts.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

FarmersFirst was in the early stages of supporting agricultural activities in CAR, when an unlikely meeting with a local farmer, Mr. Tokondo, sparked a conversation around how to make the biggest difference in the country - not just for farmers, but for the citizens as a whole. In Mr. Tokondo's mind, "agriculture is everything" when it comes to the development and stability of a country. If a community can feed itself, if a family can make an income, then the building blocks are in place to challenge a legacy of turmoil, civil war, and government corruption. Mr. Tokondo spoke at lengths about the need to bring technologies - including hardware and software - and data to the Central African farmer. It was in these early days, and conversations, that the vision for FarmersFirst: Africa - to develop an integrated rain-gauge network that both involves and supports farmers - came together.

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Photo of Joseph

The project is great but there may be problems with sustainability and ownership. Many social projects ran by charities in Africa failed because the benefiting communities were not willing to take full ownership of the facilities and run them after a time. It is not possible for projects to be funded indefinitely by grants. Can the beneficiaries be involved to take part in the financial and project management so that FarmersFirst can be able to extend service to other deserving communities.