App enables smallholders to be influencers and citizen scientists

When the weather does not want to cooperate, a nation’s farmers are always the first to take the brunt. Quickly obtaining information on the fallout is essential for development agencies, government and farmers organizations to respond efficiently. But poor connectivity and slow flows of information are an obstacle. An app tested with thousands of farmers in Colombia and Africa showed that farmers can quickly produce and share vital information when climate problems arise.

The GeoFarmer app allows community workers and smallholders to easily collect and share information on climate-related agricultural interventions. The app was deployed and tested in Colombia, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda, and was developed by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in collaboration with the University of Salzburg.

GeoFarmer allowed farmers to collect and share geospatial data on weather, farm conditions including soil and crop types, and monitor the adoption of techniques to make farms more productive and resilient to climate change. Even where internet connectivity was limited, farmers produced and shared tens of thousands of data points over short periods.

"An app like this gives farmers a voice and helps close the communication gap between people working in the development sector, researchers working on development technologies, and farmers," said Andrew Jarvis, a co-author and director of CIAT's Decision and Policy Analysis research area. "We're better at understanding farmers' needs and we're more responsive to emerging opportunities and unanticipated challenges."


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