ROME, October 17, 2023 – On World Food Day, the Innovation Commission called for investments to procure and deliver improved weather forecasts to farmers during a COP28 reception hosted by the UAE Embassy in Rome.
As the climate changes, farmers’ past experiences become less helpful in the face of increasing variability. Weather and seasonal forecasts are needed to fill an essential adaptation gap.
“Improving weather forecasts would result in billions of dollars in gains for farmers in low- and middle-income countries,” says Amir Jina, Assistant Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. “The scope for innovation across the field of forecasting is large. Recent developments show the promise of subseasonal-to-seasonal forecasts that can extend predictions from two weeks to beyond, and machine learning / AI are beginning to bear fruit with improvements across all forecasts. We could be at the beginning of a decade for forecasts.”
When it comes to reaching farmers, “There is strong evidence that farmers respond to digital extension,” adds Paul Winters, Executive Director of the Innovation Commission Secretariat. “Digital advisory services could cost-effectively transmit weather information, while also helping farmers adopt better agricultural practices, optimize the use of nitrogen fertilizer, and connect with extension workers and markets.”
Innovation can help farmers become more resilient to climate change and mitigate emissions from agriculture, but new investments are needed to realize this potential. The Innovation Commission has partnered with COP28 to identify seven innovation areas that are ripe for transition to scale, including improved weather forecasts and digital agriculture.
Procuring and disseminating improved forecasts would have huge benefits for farmers. For example, for forecasts of the monsoon seasonal rainfall in India, the benefits of improving all state-level forecasts to the average level of accuracy would exceed USD 3 billion for farmers over five years. Similar benefits are found for short-range forecasts. In Benin, farmers that received forecasts by SMS saw their incomes increase by USD 98-336 per year.
The benefits of delivering better forecasts outweigh the costs by orders of magnitude. For example, 205 million smallholder farming families who would benefit most from improved forecasts live in six countries affected by the South Asian Monsoon and six countries affected by the East and West Africa Monsoons. Procuring improved forecasts of monsoon onset timing for these 12 countries would cost USD 23 million over five years.
The COP28 Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda seeks to address challenges at the intersection of climate change and food systems. Transitioning innovations to scale is part of the solution, but there are many other components to food systems transformation. “COP28 will bring together innovative solutions, financing vehicles, and partners to allow countries to embark on a food systems transformation journey that meets their needs,” said Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment and COP28 Food Systems Lead.
Chaired by Michael Kremer, the Innovation Commission is a three-year initiative hosted at the University of Chicago that identifies innovations that are ripe for scale or that show high-potential, and generates actionable recommendations to transition innovations to scale.
For more information contact Imara Salas, Innovation Commission Secretariat Senior Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.