The CIAT/CCAFS* climate services project has been selected as one of the winners of the prestigious award of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
This is a pioneering project that uses big data techniques to develop agricultural and climate projections for farmers in Colombia and Honduras. The project took the award in the category of Solutions with Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) of the 2017 Lighthouse Activities: Momentum for Change Initiative.
Since 2013, the winning team has worked with government institutions at the national and local levels, national farmers’ associations, and meteorology agencies in the two countries to provide advice to farmers on which crops to sow and when to do it, so that farmers can choose to implement the management measures that best suits their needs.
First, the team established online systems to capture and disseminate crop and climate information. They then used innovative methodologies to create models, climate forecasts, big data analysis and artificial intelligence to develop recommendations for farmers. All this was discussed and discussed with local partners, who in turn shared it with farmers through an online platform, monthly newsletters and regular meetings.
“It is a great honor and we are delighted to have won,” said project co-leader Dr Julian Ramirez, CIAT and CCAFS Specialist Scientist on Climate Impact. “As a result of our work, we have seen a fundamental change: a transformation in the way farmer organizations plan their businesses. Most of all, this work is proof of the hard work of our partners and our CIAT team, which has more than 30 researchers working to make the provision of sustainable and effective climate services to thousands of farmers a reality.”
So far, this work has been estimated to have reached 300,000 farmers in the two countries. It also helped prevent an economic catastrophe in 2014, when some 170 Colombian rice producers avoided a staggering loss of US$3.6 million by taking advice from the National Rice Board to plant two seasons a year for cultivation. That advice was based on the information provided in the newsletter.
“People might think that big data and artificial intelligence are only useful to specialists, although it is true that they are underutilized in agriculture in Latin America,” said Co-Leader Dr. Daniel Jiménez of CIAT, whose team also won the UN Big DataClimate Challenge in 2014 for their initial work on this project.
“But we have shown that these tools can be of vital importance to farmers, allowing them to overcome and take advantage of climate variations, produce more food, and make more money. I hope this award will help us expand our work and take it to more regions.”
For Ana María Loboguerrero, the CCAFS Regional Leader, working closely with local partners has been essential to the project’s success.
“What CIAT and CCAFS are doing by bringing institutions together to empower farmers to respond effectively to climate variability is a first for Latin America. We work closely with farmer associations and public institutions and empower them to use tools and methods to obtain timely, practical, useful, and accurate information on crop management. Basically, we’re bringing vital information to people, so they can use it to make better decisions.”
Jiménez and Ramírez will present the winning initiative in what the UNFCCC calls “an Oscar-like ceremony and an intellectual leadership event” during the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23), which will take place November 6-17 in Bonn, Germany.