• Ikechukwu Kalu

2% for 80X More; How Millions of Smallholder Farmers are Climbing Above The Poverty Line with iska.

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Watching his two children return from school, the scorching sun of Northern Nigeria was not enough to deter Audu's excitement. This was not the case two years ago when he lost all of his farm investments to unforeseen weather conditions causing his household to plunge deeper into poverty and forcing his children out of school. How did he build resilience and bounce back in less than 2 years? Better not to underestimate the impact of a 2% investment that yields up to 80 times more in returns.

Audu, like over 1.5 million farmers in tropical Africa, has an advantage that enables him to optimize his farming resources and plan his farming activities better for optimum outcomes. He has iska right in his pocket, on his very ordinary feature phone, that gives him highly reliable weather forecasts from Ignitia without requiring internet access. What's more, compared to the benefits he gets from Iska, Ignitia's 48-hour SMS-based weather forecast service, he only invested a very minute 2% of his annual income to subscribe to the service for the entire farming year.

The Problem

According to the World Bank, there are an estimated 500 million smallholder farming households globally, who comprise a large proportion of the world’s poor living on less than $2 a day, as of 2016. The smallholder farming households in tropical Africa make up quite a portion of this lump. Lifting these households out of poverty will entail being able to support them to produce more yield so as to sell the excess for a profit. This is easier said considering that the farmers have to overcome a factor they have absolutely no control over; climate change.

The weather patterns of the already erratic tropical Africa are changing even more. It has become a lot more unpredictable. The rains no longer arrive when they used to, nor do they stay as long as they used to. A perfectly sunny day could become a thunderstorm in a matter of minutes and this poses a special challenge for these farmers who depend on rainfall for 96% of their water supply for agriculture. There is, hence, the need to help smallholder farmers in Africa build resilience to climate shocks if their households must live above the poverty line.

How can Farmers build this resilience?

Audu had run into an old farmer-friend of his who was already subscribed to Ignitia's iska service. He had lamented his losses and his apprehension to take a loan to invest again in his farm as he had no way of ensuring the same circumstances do not happen again. His friend wasted no time in telling him all about iska. It was pretty easy for him to subscribe to the service by simply dialing *455# on his 9mobile line from the location of his farm. A few punches on his phone's keypad later, Audu had what he now personally calls "guardian angel" assisting him with the one aspect of farming he had absolutely no control over; the weather.

Iska weather service from Ignitia sends out a 48-hour SMS weather forecast very early in the morning, providing the subscriber with highly reliable weather information on what to expect for his subscribed location that day and the day after. These farmers who can correctly interpret the SMS written with an easy-to-understand 7-Keyword approach, rely on this forecast to apply their already existent farming knowledge for the best outcomes.

Although iska is available for a little price to any subscriber in our coverage areas, many international organizations have partnered with ignitia to provide this service at no cost or at a subsidized cost to smallholder farmers. One such instance was the pilot test in Northern Nigeria with 2SCALE which saw about 1,400 farmers benefitting from the project. The farmers in this project saw a massive improvement in their yield compared to the previous season and 90% of them reported they were satisfied or very satisfied with the iska weather forecasts. 88% of them also reported that they used the weather forecasts to improve their farming practices leading to the yield increase reported. See a 2-minute video report of the pilot project here.

The project evaluation also found that 80% of the farmers indicated an interest in paying for our iska weather forecasts at the conclusion of the project. Just like Audu, they have experienced and come to trust a 2% investment that could yield up to 80 times more in investment.

Going Forward...

Ignitia remains committed to creating value and impact for farmers in the tropics. The expansion into Brazil provides the opportunity to make even more impact in the South America, a region considered a global powerhouse in agriculture.

To partner with ignitia to make more impact for farmers, send a mail to info@ignitia.se or visit www.ignitia.se.

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