In Ghana, like many parts of the African continent, agriculture is often seen as the symbol of the country’s poverty.
Smallholder farmers in villages and hinterlands are largely poor and do not have the tools and techniques that can be adopted to help them flourish. These farmers are often considered by agriculture stakeholders too backward to thrive and most of them are time and again neglected for commercial farmers.
But former UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, insists that there is a powerful tool that can be deployed to help clear away the primary obstacles and problems of these poor farmers to help them progress; providing them with weather updates.
“Growing up in Ghana, I learned how harsh the harmattan can be. The dry, dusty wind from the Sahara sweeps across from November to March. It brings dust storms that damage airways, eyes and skin, and sudden cold spells that can jeopardise vulnerable people,” Kofi Annan said.
“The threat from the harmattan shows us a good place to start: by improving collection of climate and weather information, preparation of forecasts — including forecasts of dust and sand storms — and distribution of weather warnings to those who need them,” he added.
As Chair of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working together for peace and human rights, Kofi Annan admits that it is very hard to get information to or from smallholder farmers thereby preventing their efficient integration into the broader economy.
“The national weather service often doesn’t have the means to interpret and distribute forecasts to authorities. It would take a small investment to provide these services with the equipment, communications, staffing, training and coordination they need to distribute accurate and timely warnings to some of the world’s poorest regions.”
Offering a solution to the problem, Kofi Annan said, “We need to support weather and climate services so that rather than just collecting and providing data, they can become trusted suppliers of information and knowledge to the public.”
“We need to place greater emphasis on providing people with the timely information they need to protect themselves from extreme weather. Early warnings of hazards cannot only help communities respond and adapt to health risks posed by climate change, but also raise awareness of the causes and effects of climate change — and hence build public support for policies that strengthen resilience and mitigate against the impact of climate change,” he added.
This is a problem that Farmerline has strived to solve across the farming regions in Ghana and across the African divide. CEO and Co-Founder, Alloysius Attah, underscores why it is important to furnish farmers with relevant agricultural information to improve productivity and increase income. “Lack of information about weather patterns and about which crops grow best in a changing climate hurts rural farmer’s yields.”
“Cell phone use is growing rapidly throughout Ghana, including in rural areas. This mobile tool can help farmers in Ghana to get information about agricultural best practices down to the farm level, including choosing crops best suited for their specific location, and how to prepare for changes in weather patterns (including dry spells, changes in seasonal onset, and extreme events).”
Quotes from Kofi Annan first appeared in French in Le Monde and English in the Africa Report.