ZERO HUNGER: Harnessing Weather Forecast to Feed the World
Updated: Mar 3, 2020
With 216 million fewer hungry people today than in 1990-92, the world is still a long way from achieving the Zero Hunger SDG by 2030. A 2018 UNICEF report showed there were still 821 million hungry people as at 2017 and the numbers are rising.
By 2050, the total populace of the world will achieve 9.1 billion. Majority of this population increment will happen in developing countries and urbanisation will thus, proceed at a quickened pace. FAO projects an estimated 70% of the total population will be urban. To encourage this bigger, increasingly urban and more extravagant population, food production must be enhanced by 70%.
Although increasing food production is not sufficient to achieve zero hunger, it will go a long way.
A majority of this expected increase in food production would originate from enhancement in cropping intensity and yields. However, the percentage of yield and growth of crops has been consistently declining recently.
The challenge of achieving zero hunger thus, is to turn around this steady decline.
Climate change represents a major risk for achieving the zero hunger goal of long-term food security because it hampers agricultural productivity. Studies estimate that the aggregate negative impact of climate change on African agricultural output up to 2080-2100 could be between 15% and 30%. African farmers must, therefore, find leverage innovation to boost productivity despite climate change as future yield growth is essential to keep up with demand.
Agriculture in Africa is majorly rain-fed. So, exploiting highly accurate weather forecast for farming activities is a great way to boost productivity in spite of climate change.
Harnessing Weather Forecast for Zero Hunger
Having seen the role of rainfall in agricultural productivity, accurate weather forecast will certainly help increase food production, thereby, helping to achieve zero hunger.
Here are some ways weather forecast can be used to boost productivity and feed the world;
Timing when to plant is a big decider on expected yield. The soil is best for planting when it is moist. Thus, reliable information on when it will rain will help farmers plan their planting season better. This will greatly reduce the likelihood of losing yield due to late rains. It will also ensure productivity because they can plant early enough for their crops to complete their cycle before the rains are gone. On the other hand, having information of a heavy downpour likely to result in a flood will advise farmers to delay their planting so as to avoid washing away the seeds or drowning them.
Besides the fact that it is easier to till moist soil than dry soil, a heavy downpour can undo efforts committed to tilling. Heavy downpours can wash down ridges and mounds exposing seeds to birds, pests and other unfavourable conditions. In situations where the downpour totally flattens the ridges, the cost of labor is a waste of resources.
For mechanized farmers who hire tractors and other machinery, a heavy rainfall on the day they hired equipment will mean a lot of financial loss on their side. This is because they would have already paid for the tractor and would not be able to use it. What’s more, using the machinery in adverse weather conditions can damage the equipment, leading to more woes for the farmer.
Farm Input Applications
Farm inputs like fertilizers and pesticides are precious commodities to farmers for obvious reasons. While they are quite expensive to procure, they are also necessary to boost and preserve yield. Rain affects yield when it washes away these inputs. Less nutrients and more exposure to pests will mean lower yields for the plants. More so, these chemicals washed away end up in the waters, polluting the ecosystem thereby. Planning when to apply these inputs can use weather forecasts for maximum result.
Weather is also a key factor during harvest. Rainfall, for instance, can have a major impact on cotton harvesting and make it difficult for cotton farmers to take advantage of their full crop yield. When rain soaks cotton before harvest, the cotton becomes more difficult to harvest. Even when harvested, the cotton is of a poor color grade, which causes the crop to lose a lot of its value.
This also applies for food crops like rice and maize. For these cereals, rainfall just before harvest can lead to decay and germination of ready crop. This results in the loss of yield.
Also, when farmers utilize weather forecast to increase their yield, they make more money from sales of surplus harvest. The proceeds of these sales improve their lifestyle and living standards, ensuring, neither they nor their families go to bed hungry.
Increased food production is a major leg in achieving zero hunger. Weather forecast, however, can be harnessed to boost agricultural productivity in pursuit of this goal. Besides using weather forecast to make more food available, it also improves farmers’ income. This guarantees farmers and consumers alike never go hungry. Accurate weather forecast, by extension, has a key role in play in the actualization of zero hunger. With Ignitia, thousands of farmers in Africa are harnessing weather forecast to feed the world.