Agrometeorological Forecast for Smallholder Farmers: A Powerful Tool for Weather-Informed Crops Management in the Sahel.

Bacci, M.; Ousman Baoua, Y.; Tarchiani, V.
Published in: Sustainability 2020, 12, 3246.
Date: May 14, 2020

Agriculture production in Nigerien rural areas mainly depends on weather variability. Weather forecasts produced by national or international bodies have very limited dissemination in rural areas and even if broadcast by local radio, they remain generic and limited to short-term information. According to several experiences in West Africa, weather and climate services (WCSs) have great potential to support farmers’ decision making. The challenge is to reach local communities with tailored information about the future weather to support strategic and tactical crop management decisions. WCSs, in West Africa, are mainly based on short-range weather forecasts and seasonal climate forecasts, while medium-range weather forecasts, even if potentially very useful for crop management, are rarely produced. This paper presents the results of a pilot initiative in Niger to reach farming communities with 10-day forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—Global Forecast System (NOAA-GFS) produced by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). After the implementation of the download and treatment chain, the Niger National Meteorological Directorate can provide 10-day agrometeorological forecasts to the agricultural extension services in eight rural municipalities. Exploiting the users’ evaluation of the forecasts, an analysis of usability and overall performance of the service is described. The results demonstrate that, even in rural and remote areas, agrometeorological forecasts are valued as powerful and useful information for decision-making processes. The service can be implemented at low cost with effective technologies making it affordable and sustainable even in developing countries. Nonetheless, the service’s effectiveness depends on several aspects mainly related to the way information is communicated to the public.