West African Weather: A New Grant

Awarded on 24 Jan 2014


Information and Communication Technology

Grant amount £11,755.84

It’s true, British people love to talk about the weather. In fact, according to some it is our top national trait. The Indigo team were delighted, therefore, when a Swedish-Ghanaian weather forecasting company, Ignitia, got in touch with us to discuss the work they were doing in West Africa. And we’re delighted to announce that we have awarded them a grant of 48,040 Ghanain Cedi (approx. USD$19,000) towards the costs of this work.

Proof, if it were needed, that Brits are indeed obsessed by weather

Proof, if it were needed, that Brits are indeed obsessed by weather

The organisation was set up in 2010, with the first 2 years focusing on developing a weather forecasting system and researching weather patterns to enable accurate forecasts. Ignitia’s contribution lies in the fact that they are able to provide highly localised forecasts that the larger meteorological organisations simply can’t match. Their forecasts are approximately 85% accurate and, what’s more, they use SMS to provide their forecasts to smallholder farmers across Ghana. The system works like this:

  • Qualified and experienced meteorologists analyse satellite images and model data output from a super computer
  • By 7 am, a 2-day forecast is issued by SMS to the farmer
  • 3 different weather symbols have been created for use on all types of mobile phones to cater for illiterate farmers
  • The farmer signs up to receive the service through an SMS short code and the GPS location of the farm is given by the telecom provider for accuracy
  • The SMS is based on rainfall likelihood and whether it will be of light/medium or heavy intensity
  • The SMS indicates if the rain is predicted to fall early morning, daytime or evening
  • The forecast is extracted from a 9km grid pattern, ensuring the data is relevant to the farmer’s location
  • The cost to the farmer will be $0.04/SMS (equal to GH¢0.08 or approximately $6/year)

We are providing them with funding to cover salaries, some initial bulk SMS, overheads and ongoing development costs. Early results from the pilot study are promising, with farmers finding value in the system and a less than 1% drop-out rate. If Ignitia are able to maintain this success as they expand, the future looks very sunny.*

* Apologies for the pun, I just couldn’t help myself.