International: TAMSAT-AgricuLtural EaRly warning sysTem (TAMSAT-ALERT) platform

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Meteorology

Abstract

We propose the development of a new platform, TAMSAT-ALERT*, which will transform proven research in decision support for African agriculture into a platform co-designed with key stakeholders in the agricultural and financial sectors, dedicated to supporting farmers facing time-critical agronomic decisions every season.

TAMSAT-ALERT (AgricuLtural dEcision suppoRT) is a methodological framework for assessing weather-related risk to agriculture. TAMSAT has piloted the framework and associated data products in several African countries, including Ghana and Zambia, in partnership with national hydrometeorological services, and leaders in the financial and agricultural sectors.

Currently the framework exists as a set of research level code, which can only be run within the TAMSAT group. The proposed project will develop TAMSAT-ALERT into a platform, which can be utilized by the agricultural and financial sectors in Africa and beyond - bridging the gap between research level products and an operational tool. To engage a wide community of stakeholders, the platform will be served through a website, a smartphone app and R/python packages.

Our vision is a set of sustainable technologies that can be exploited independently of the project investigators for societal good.

*Tropical Applications of Meteorology using SATellite data and ground observations - AgricuLtural dEcision suppoRT system

Planned Impact

The ultimate beneficiaries of the TAMSAT-ALERT platform are farmers in Africa, who depend on favourable weather conditions to make a living. These benefits will be realised by engaging with key user groups, who support farmer decision making. The groups targeted are listed below (project partners in brackets):

1. International and African financial sectors (Blue Marble/Risk Shield) will benefit through the facility to provide improved quality drought insurance to a greater number of farmers.

2. National hydrometeorological services (Ghana Meteorological Agency, ENACTS) will benefit through access to enhanced rainfall products.

3. Agricultural service providers (One Acre Fund) will gain the ability to provide decision support to farmers based on multiple sources of data.

Close engagement with stakeholders throughout the development process will make TAMSAT-ALERT into a genuinely useful tool for decision support and risk assessment. The TAMSAT group, furthermore, has sustained operational activities for forty years. Incorporation into the TAMSAT operational programme will ensure that TAMSAT-ALERT will benefit Africans long after this project has finished.

Strategy for building engagement:

1. Day-to-day interaction between the project investigators (TAMSAT and the IEA) and the project partners (Risk Shield, Blue Marble, One Acre Fund, ENACTS and the Ghana Meteorological Agencies) will ensure that the platform meets the requirements of key user groups.

2. The project partners have been chosen as representatives of key user groups, who already have established collaborations with the TAMSAT group. Adoption of the platform by the project partners in pilots, is intended to demonstrate the benefits of the TAMSAT-ALERT approach to a wider group of stakeholders. Stakeholder workshops and other interactions between TAMSAT, the project partners and the wider community (eg at conferences) will thus motivate the wider community to trial the new technology, independently of the project investigators and partners.

3. Over time, as elements of the platform are integrated into established systems for decision support and early warning, international organizations that use these platforms will benefit from the research outputs.

Engagement activities include:
1. Continual day to day interaction with partners, in order to co-design of the platform.
2. Two project workshops, the second of which will be held jointly with a major planned National Centre for Atmospheric Science workshop.
3. Attendance at external conferences/workshops targeted at the scientific and stakeholder communities
4. Written outputs: user documentation, training materials, reports, papers.

The budget for the engagement activities is approximately quarter of the total - underlining the importance to the project.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description A platform has been developed for the provision of agricultural decision support at the community level for farmers in Africa. The platform provides short and long term risk assessments for agricultural drought, rainfall deficit and plant stress. Comparison with observed data for more than 2000 localities in Kenya, suggests that if farmers were to optimise their planting dates using our platform, their yields would increase by up to 20%.
Exploitation Route The findings will be taken forward with our stakeholders in the agricultural and fianncial sectors in the SatWIN-ALERT project
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description Smallholders in Africa depend on rainfed agriculture for their livelihoods. Community scale risk assessments for flood and drought enable farmers to make good decisions on issues including when to plant, when to apply fertilizer and what crop variety is most suitable. On a larger scale, robust risk assessments facilitate access to affordable insurance and related risk management products. The TAMSAT-ALERT web platform and associated software are being used widely in the African financial and agricultural sectors to improve the provision of climate services.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Exploiting environmental data for food security in Africa: a new rainfall dataset for monitoring and early action
Amount £160,351 (GBP)
Organisation University of Reading 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2019 
End 07/2021
 
Description GCRF - financial instruments for resilience
Amount £343,529 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R014116/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2019
 
Description GCRF African Science for Weather Information and Forecasting Techniques (African SWIFT)
Amount £7,971,410 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/P021077/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 12/2021
 
Description INtegrated FORecasting for Mitigation of risk
Amount £152,782 (GBP)
Organisation UK Department for International Development 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2020 
End 12/2020
 
Description Agricultural decision support 
Organisation One Acre Fund
Country Kenya 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have collaborated with the One Acre Fund to develop a methodology for supporting farmers' decisions on planting date. If field trials are successful, this information will be disseminated to farmers via text message.
Collaborator Contribution The partners have provided extensive datasets of planting date and yield, which have enabled us to carry out an ex ante study of the potential of the decision support to improve yield.
Impact Internal reports on the potential added value of the decision support. These will be developed into field trials.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with ICPAC 
Organisation ICPAC
Country Kenya 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Provision of soil moisture forecasts to support the regional climate outlook forum
Collaborator Contribution Implementation and testing of TAMSAT-ALERT soil mositure forecasts, and provision of forecasts to stakeholders in Africa.
Impact Improved drought early warning for the Greater Horn of Africa
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with NiMet 
Organisation Nigerian Meteorological Agency
Country Nigeria 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Training on processing and evaluation of S2S forecast data, provision of drought forecasts
Collaborator Contribution Validation data and implementation of TAMSAT-ALERT forecasts
Impact Improved drought early warning
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with the Ghana Meteorological Agency 
Organisation Ghana Meteorological Agency
Country Ghana 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution NCAS/ACREW supports the Ghana Meteorological Agency by providing soil moisture forecasts to inform early action.
Collaborator Contribution GMet provides validation data and staff time for implementation and testing of the system
Impact Implementation of our drought forecasting system within GMet, leading to improved drought early warning and early action.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Decision support for international organisations 
Organisation International Committee of the Red Cross
Department Kenya Red Cross Society
Country Kenya 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have provided international organisations , including the Red Cross and World Food Programme with impact relevant forecasts, which have enabled them to release funds during droughts in Africa.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners have provided a 'route to impact' for our research through their core activities of enabling poor farmers to weather drought.
Impact Provision of impact relevant forecasts has facilitated the release of WFP funds in Zambia, as part of the R4 insurance programme Soil moisture forecasts developed in these research projects have informed the development of early action protocols by the Red Cross
Start Year 2018
 
Description Decision support for international organisations 
Organisation World Food Programme (Italy, Sudan, Senegal)
Country Italy 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have provided international organisations , including the Red Cross and World Food Programme with impact relevant forecasts, which have enabled them to release funds during droughts in Africa.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners have provided a 'route to impact' for our research through their core activities of enabling poor farmers to weather drought.
Impact Provision of impact relevant forecasts has facilitated the release of WFP funds in Zambia, as part of the R4 insurance programme Soil moisture forecasts developed in these research projects have informed the development of early action protocols by the Red Cross
Start Year 2018
 
Description Partnerships with the insurance industry 
Organisation African Risk Capacity
Country South Africa 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution 1. The Investigators worked closely with the financial sector to improve insurance provision for African farmers. This has resulted in extending insurance to more than 1M farmer households in Zambia. 2. The Investigators have also collaborated with the Africa Risk Capacity to incorporate NCAS/University of Reading datasets into the Africa Risk Viewer (ARV), and supported ARC with the use of these data for informing the release of aid across Africa. 3. The Investigators have provided software to PULA Advisors for objective diagnosis of the onset of the rainy season in southern Africa. This has improved the quality of PULA's replanting insurance products. 4. Drought predictions and drought monitoring information, provided by the Investigators, are being incorporated into the World Food Programme seasonal monitoring bulletins for southern Africa.
Collaborator Contribution The partners have co-developed datasets and products (as described above), and provided feedback on their utility for decision making.
Impact Over 1 million farmers are now insured in Zambia using TAMSAT data and products. These farmers received pay outs that have helped them weather several years of poor weather.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Partnerships with the insurance industry 
Organisation INFORM GmbH
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution 1. The Investigators worked closely with the financial sector to improve insurance provision for African farmers. This has resulted in extending insurance to more than 1M farmer households in Zambia. 2. The Investigators have also collaborated with the Africa Risk Capacity to incorporate NCAS/University of Reading datasets into the Africa Risk Viewer (ARV), and supported ARC with the use of these data for informing the release of aid across Africa. 3. The Investigators have provided software to PULA Advisors for objective diagnosis of the onset of the rainy season in southern Africa. This has improved the quality of PULA's replanting insurance products. 4. Drought predictions and drought monitoring information, provided by the Investigators, are being incorporated into the World Food Programme seasonal monitoring bulletins for southern Africa.
Collaborator Contribution The partners have co-developed datasets and products (as described above), and provided feedback on their utility for decision making.
Impact Over 1 million farmers are now insured in Zambia using TAMSAT data and products. These farmers received pay outs that have helped them weather several years of poor weather.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Partnerships with the insurance industry 
Organisation Pula Advisors
Country Switzerland 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution 1. The Investigators worked closely with the financial sector to improve insurance provision for African farmers. This has resulted in extending insurance to more than 1M farmer households in Zambia. 2. The Investigators have also collaborated with the Africa Risk Capacity to incorporate NCAS/University of Reading datasets into the Africa Risk Viewer (ARV), and supported ARC with the use of these data for informing the release of aid across Africa. 3. The Investigators have provided software to PULA Advisors for objective diagnosis of the onset of the rainy season in southern Africa. This has improved the quality of PULA's replanting insurance products. 4. Drought predictions and drought monitoring information, provided by the Investigators, are being incorporated into the World Food Programme seasonal monitoring bulletins for southern Africa.
Collaborator Contribution The partners have co-developed datasets and products (as described above), and provided feedback on their utility for decision making.
Impact Over 1 million farmers are now insured in Zambia using TAMSAT data and products. These farmers received pay outs that have helped them weather several years of poor weather.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Partnerships with the insurance industry 
Organisation World Food Programme (Italy, Sudan, Senegal)
Country Italy 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution 1. The Investigators worked closely with the financial sector to improve insurance provision for African farmers. This has resulted in extending insurance to more than 1M farmer households in Zambia. 2. The Investigators have also collaborated with the Africa Risk Capacity to incorporate NCAS/University of Reading datasets into the Africa Risk Viewer (ARV), and supported ARC with the use of these data for informing the release of aid across Africa. 3. The Investigators have provided software to PULA Advisors for objective diagnosis of the onset of the rainy season in southern Africa. This has improved the quality of PULA's replanting insurance products. 4. Drought predictions and drought monitoring information, provided by the Investigators, are being incorporated into the World Food Programme seasonal monitoring bulletins for southern Africa.
Collaborator Contribution The partners have co-developed datasets and products (as described above), and provided feedback on their utility for decision making.
Impact Over 1 million farmers are now insured in Zambia using TAMSAT data and products. These farmers received pay outs that have helped them weather several years of poor weather.
Start Year 2015
 
Description International workshop on TAMSAT-ALERT climate services for the insurance industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Attendees at the workshop included the major players in African drought insurance and climate services, from the World Food Organisation (R4), Pula, Risk Shield, Blue Marble, CIMMYT, One Acre Fund , the Ghana Meteorological Service and the Africa Risk Capacity. The chosen organisations were a mix of international, national and third sector organisations. This is the full list of attendees:

Emily Black (overall PI) University of Reading
Rahel Diro (co-PI, participatory lead) IRI (Columbia)
Helen Greatrex (co-PI) IRI (Columbia)

Federica Carfagna ARC
Tom Philp Blue Marble/XLCatlin
Thabbie Chilongo Center for Agricultural Research Development (CARD) - LUANAR
Peter Craufurd CIMMYT
Michael Tanu Ghana meteorological service
Patrick Lamptey Ghana meteorological service
Eric Asuman Ghana meteorological service
Dan Osgood IRI (Columbia)
Markus Enekel IRI (Columbia)
Bristol Powell IRI (Columbia)
Melody Braun IRI (Columbia)
Lisette Braman IRI (Columbia)
Step Aston One Acre Fund
Steven Kogo PULA Advisors
Rose Goslinga PULA Advisors
Kalie Gold PULA Advisors
Agrotosh Mookerjee Risk Shield
Ross Maidment University of Reading
Matthew Young University of Reading
Katie Cooper University of Reading
Daniela Cuellar WFP/R4
Hussein Madih WFP/R4
Jyothi Bylappa Maralenhalli WFP/R4
William Dick WFP/R4
Mathieu Dubreuil WFP/R4

At the workshop we demonstrated the new TAMSAT-ALERT tools and explored applications. The outcomes were:
- Progress towards applying the TAMSAT-ALERT for supporting planting date for >500,000 farmers (CIMMYT and 1AF)
- TAMSAT-ALERT soil moisture forecasting services for >1M Zambian farmers (Risk Shield)
- Objective rainy season identification code passed to Pula Consultants (reaching >500,000 farmers) (Pula)
- Inclusion of TAMSAT data in the Africa Risk Capacity portal (national level forecast based finance for most of Africa) (ARC)
- New research projects agreed with Ghana Meteorological Agency (GMet)

The workshop will thus hugely expand the ODA impact of the TAMSAT-ALERT system developed during TAMSAT-ALERT and SatWIN-ALERT.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018