Villagers in Liberia being trained on how to use plastic rain gauges to measure rainfall © WMO
More than 15,000 farmers, fishermen, agricultural extension agents, NGOs, media and national weather institutions from 17 countries across West Africa (a region prone to extreme droughts, heat waves and floods and, therefore, at great risk of food insecurity) have benefited from Metagri, a regional agro-meteorological initiative. Implemented in 2008 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Metagri has also increased the technical skills of national meteorological and hydrological services in the use of remote sensing products. Relations with the media have also been improved, enabling more efficient and broader dissemination of weather, climate warnings and agricultural advice.
Between 2012 and 2015 more than 12,000 people, representing 4,652 villages, were trained in 269 roving seminars to help them observe and use weather and climate information. Over 4,800 plastic rain gauges were also distributed to selected farmers to enable them to measure rainfall and estimate soil moisture, which is key to improving crop productivity. Furthermore, Metagri has increased the use of ICTs to disseminate climate information to farmers via SMS or to collect data from the field.
A 2015 evaluation of Metagri in Côte d´Ivoire, Ghana, Mauritania and Niger revealed that access to weather and climate services was helping farmer decision-making concerning seed variety and geographical distribution of plots, and had enabled farmers to better ‘sync’ their crop development cycles with the onset of rains. For example, reducing reseeding in Mauritania saved 8.5 kg of seed and 3 days of work per hectare. Overall, the project had stronger impacts in regions where agro-meteorological information is more accurate and accessible as a result of increased interaction between farmers, national meteorological services and other development institutions involved.
“The next objective is to bring an effective provision of weather and climate services to the 17 countries plus Cameroon”, says Jose Luis Camacho, WMO focal point for Metagri. Gender will be a key aspect of the next phase of the Metagri programme, due to be launched before the end of 2016 to boost the participation of women. Work will also be conducted to improve the quality of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services products, broadcasting channels and feedback information.