Smallholder farmers in Kongwa District, Tanzania, use the iSAT advisory tool to better manage climate risks

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To help smallholder farmers make better agricultural decisions and reduce the negative effects of climate variability, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners have developed and piloted a method that delivers context-specific climate agro-advisories in Kongwa District, Tanzania.

This effort, linked to the World Bank-funded Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa project, aims to increase resilience and sustainability in the face of changing climatic circumstances, boosting production and profitability, ensuring food security, and improving livelihoods.

A 2021–2022 survey of 240 farmers in six villages, namely Sagara, Laikala, Moleti, Lengaji, Mlali and Nghumbi in Kongwa, found that smallholders there were lagging in the adoption and use of climate information services to reduce risks in agricultural production.

This was due to many reasons, but high illiteracy rates, incomprehensibility, unreliability and poor timing of the climate information they received were among the main responses farmers gave.

‘Less than 55% of the farmers polled had access to weather forecasts by SMS, radio or TV, and only 40% of those could interpret the forecasts and utilize this information to make agronomic decisions,’ says Jacob Emanuel, an agrometeorologist and research officer from ILRI Tanzania.

To address the challenges, the initiative team, which also includes experts from the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), adopted the ‘intelligent agricultural Systems Advisory Tool’ (iSAT).

This decision-support tool uses location-specific content (for example, soils or crop varieties), seasonal forecasts from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and medium-range forecasts from the Tanzanian Meteorology Authority combined with agronomic advice from TARI to disseminate weekly messages to over 280 farmers in the 2021–22 and 2022–23 wet seasons.

Disseminated weekly via a text message in Kiswahili, this content was sent to farmers both pre-seasons, for planning, and in-season, for tactical management, including the selection of lowest-risk planting and harvesting times in the dryland farming system.

Further reading on iSAT

Photo: Feed collection in Tanzania (ILRI/Brigitte L. Maass)

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