A five-year-old Liisa Petrykowska stuffed an envelope full of leftover food and marked it, “To the Children of Africa.” Her parents, like many others, force-fed her the cliché of “starving children in Africa” to encourage her to finish her portions lest feel guilt for all the kids who go without. But her charming childhood gesture was just the beginning of efforts to provide solutions for hunger in Africa.
In West Africa, agriculture employs 65% of the labor force, but many small scale farmers are facing hardship. Tweet This Quote
In West Africa, agriculture employs 65% of the labor force, but many small scale farmers are facing hardship: climate change, extreme weather and fewer growing days cause uncertainties that affect daily decisions. As a result, sometimes families go years without a successful harvest.
Ignitia, based in Sweden, founded by Petrykowska, takes the guesswork out of weather-dependent business operations by providing SMS messages packed with tailored regional weather data sets. Based on research in physics and meteorology, gathered from universities and research institutes such as NASA, the Ignitia team developed a model suited to the tropics. Sub-Saharan countries have long been referred to as the “physics of no mans land” for their elusive weather processes.
“This is about helping small-scale farmers to have reliable income to help our African fellows to grow out of poverty,” says Petrykowska.
This is about helping small-scale farmers to have reliable income to help our African fellows to grow out of poverty. Tweet This Quote
The model includes early warnings of severe fluctuations. One message can be the difference between planting too early or too late, thus losing an entire crop. The forecast technology is 84% accurate in West Africa compared to 39% from global competitors—even under rapidly varying weather conditions.
By having access to weather forecasting services, the farmers can ensure more productivity and income.
“Highly accurate decision support creates resilience within the business chain for farmers, enabling them to farm effectively, optimize the timing of planting, machinery rentals, inputs, chemicals, and harvest,” says Petrykowska. “This positively impacts farmers, those in the supply chain and surrounding economy, and creates higher and more stable yields.”
By having access to weather forecasting services, the farmers can ensure more productivity and income. Tweet This Quote
Ignitia sells weather forecasts to large companies in seed production, fertilizer, farming equipment and trading sectors. These companies have already organized farmer associations, guaranteeing a larger reach. The forecasts are sold for a yearly fee to these companies, and then distributed to the farmers in their associations by means of text messages. Subscribing for a full season corresponds to 1-2% of a farmer’s cost for inputs (fertilizer, seeds etc.) in Ghana.
To date, Ignitia has sent over 5.4 million text messages with weather forecasts to small-scale farmers in West Africa.
All farmers should have the opportunity to get quality, reliable information that will ensure and improve their yield year after year. Tweet This Quote
“Our model is extremely scalable, and we’re looking for another 120 million farmers to join—we just need their phone numbers,” jokes Petrykowska. “All farmers should have the opportunity to get quality, reliable information that will ensure and improve their yield year after year.”