An enhanced rainfall forecasting can assist vulnerable farmers in West Africa achieve bumper harvest, a new study by scientists at the Institut de Recherche pour le Development (IRD), Senegal has said.
The study entitled Rainfall forecasting could reduce food insecurity noted that by adjusting their strategies in line with forecasts for coming rainy seasons farmers would achieve up to 70 per cent increased harvest.
“Improvement of the accuracy of predictions and communicating them to farmers can therefore prove to be a strong boost for agricultural development, even in countries of the Sahel like Niger, where low irregular rainfall lend themselves only to crops giving low profitability. Such advances would make West African farming communities more resistant to food insecurity in the forthcoming years and also reduce the poverty of a many small-scale producers,” the scientists said.
The research team used agronomic modelling tools to simulate the adaptations a Niger millet grower can make. These produced assessments of the expected long-term benefits of climate forecasts on farm yields. It was based on 18 years of climate forecasts, from 1990 to 2007.
They tested several scenarios depending on the accuracy of forecasts and of information supplied to farmers. The result was that even with the low level of detail provided by the current system, the crop yields can be improved by nearly 7 per cent.
The study established that adapting growing strategies each year according to the forecasts would lead to gains in production of up to 80 per cent as a previous study showed through numerical modelling of a virtual farm in Senegal.
“Although in Niger small-scale growers of millet –the staple food, making up 75 per cent of national production– have little room for manoeuvre, they could still substantially increase their earnings, by up to 30 per cent,” the scientists said.
The IRD scientists said that the future of Sub-Saharan Africa, where starvation rates, reaching nearly 30 per cent, are the highest in the World, depends on the ability of the agricultural sector to guarantee food security for a steeply rising population.