“Let it rain” gamifies weather predictions to incentivize farmers’ uptake of localized agro-advisories and help crowdsource weather information, which, when run through machine learning, will further improve weather forecasts.
A first pilot was developed in Kenya, in partnership with the Media for education and development (MEDIAE) popular farm make-over TV show ‘Shamba Shape Up’. The campaign awarded a prize to the participant who most closely guessed the start of the rains. Once the user finishes playing, he/she is signed up to iShamba, a farmer mobile service which provides weekly agricultural tips, for crops and livestock, market prices and weather information.
The game itself is a simple Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) survey, a communication protocol on mobile phones that allows for real-time connection between a respondent's phone and a mobile network or server to implement survey questions.
The crowdsourced guesses contribute to improved capacity to predict the start of the rain. These data are made available through Shamba Shape Up and iShamba to advise on planting dates and other agronomic information for crops.
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).
In what context is this tool useful?
In a context where farmers need timely and reliable agricultural information to face the changing climate and take better decisions about planting dates and agronomic management. According to a CGIAR report, a ten-day planting delay can lessen yields by half.
The tool aims to reduce smallholders’ production risk, enhance adaptive capacity to climate risks (more sustainably managed agro-ecosystems) and increase livelihood opportunities through innovative incentive mechanisms for the adoption of agro-weather advisories.
As a result of the "Let it rain' game, iShamba saw 25,312 new sign ups in 2020 (growing from 6,481 total users in 2019 to over 47,000 in 2020). Through this, iShamba has developed a more advanced and localized weather service. It is now sending 450,000 farmers weekly localized weather information within a radius of 5-9 km. This will allow farmers to plan and significantly plant their crops using more accurate weather information and therefore better adapt to climate change.
Farmers from 10 counties spread across the main farming zones in Kenya were eligible to play the game with a prize money of 100,000 Ksh (USD 1,000) allocated per county. The prize money was distributed in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, during a period of decreased income for many, and it was found that winners commonly invested this money back in their farms. Farm input purchases and small livestock investments were the most common uses of the funds.
2020’s edition of the game proved to be a success story in sensitising farmers on the significance of weather forecasting. Winners of the challenge walked away with a cash prize of One million Shillings which was spread across 10 counties and free access to iShamba services.
iShamba carried out a follow up survey to research what winners had done with their prize money. Winners of "Let It Rain" used their earnings to invest in their farms to increase income. A random sampling of the winners shows that 47% invested the cash in buying farm inputs (improved seeds, fertilizers and crop protection chemicals); while 37% invested in livestock (buying new stock of chickens, cows and goats). One of the farmers who won 20,000 Ksh ($200) built a new house for the family. The rest of the winners used the cash to diversify their earnings by investing in non-farm related businesses.
Having resources and access to information considering climate change will enable farmers to predict when the rains might come in their areas and plant in time, hence increasing their yields.