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Using SMS Texts to Provide Weather Forecasts for Small Farmers in West Africa

New BCtA member Ignitia will improve crop yields and livelihoods for 1.2 million farmers

Published 12-22-15

Submitted by Business Call to Action (BCtA)

Ignitia, a high-tech social enterprise, has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to deliver reliable, targeted, low-cost tropical weather forecasts via text messages to 1.2 million small-scale farmers in West Africa by the end of 2017. BCtA is a global initiative that encourages companies to fight poverty through inclusive business models. It is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other international organizations. 

Small-scale farmers in the tropics have limited access to reliable weather forecasts, which seriously constrains their ability to plan farming activities. To fill this gap, Ignitia created a forecasting model that creates reliable, GPS-specific weather forecasts. Two-day, monthly and seasonal forecasts are sent to customers via SMS. Launched in Ghana in 2014, iska™ has proven to be 84 percent accurate compared with global forecasts, such as those found on the BBC or CNN, which only achieve 39 percent accuracy in West Africa.  

“With iska™, smallholder farmers receive the vital information they need to mitigate risk and create resilience. In doing so, farmers are able to increase yields and improve their livelihoods, year after year,” said Liisa Petrykowska, Ignitia’s Chief Executive Officer. “We are pleased to have our inclusive business recognized by the Business Call Action and look forward to working with the BCtA and our fellow members.” 

More than 2.8 billion people – 40 percent of the world’s population – live in the tropics, where the majority derive their livelihoods from small-scale farming. The yields of small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are the lowest in the world, causing food insecurity, continued poverty and stagnant economic growth. It is estimated that between 20 percent and 80 percent of annual yields are lost due to weather. By comparison, losses due to pests, diseases and weeds affect only 15 percent of yields (Gommes et al, 2011). A study of smallholder maize farmers in Mali found that by using meteorological data alone, farmers could increase their incomes by up to 80 percent (Hellmuth et al, 2007). 

Each iska™ forecast is tailor made for a specific farmer’s location by an automated application that fetches the most common GPS coordinate for each subscriber. Farmers are then sent unique forecasts by SMS in text-lite format, which can be received by any basic mobile phone. The farmers are charged the equivalent of US$0.04 per day for the service; they can pay in micro-installments from pre-paid mobile credit. Over an entire season, this typically adds up to less than 2 percent of a farmer’s total expenditure on inputs. iska™ is delivered in partnership with MTN in Ghana, and with other telecommunications partners across West Africa, and is easy for the farmer to opt in or out. 

Changes in weather patterns, coupled with the increased frequency and intensity of severe weather are resulting in fewer growing days rendering traditional farming methodologies increasingly less reliable. Iska’s™ accurate short- mid- and long-range forecasting messaging, therefore, offers farmers a crucial climate change adaptation mechanism. 

To date, Ignitia has reached more than 80,000 farmers and sent over 6 million weather forecasts. The company plans to expand its service to 20 countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and Central America. 

“Ignitia’s inclusive business is an excellent example of leveraging low-cost, easily accessible technologies to reduce poverty and hunger, and deliver on the 2030 Development Agenda,” said Sahba Sobhani, BCtA’s Acting Project Manager. “We are pleased to welcome the company as a BCtA member and look forward to supporting its growth in the months and years ahead." 

For further information: 

Business Call to Action: Jeanne Finestone at

Ignitia: Lizzie Merrill at 

About Business Call to Action (BCtA):

The Business Call to Action challenges companies to advance core business activities that are inclusive of poor populations and contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals.  Worldwide, 137 companies, from SMEs to multinationals, have responded to the BCtA by making commitments to improve the lives and livelihoods of millions through commercially-viable business ventures that engage low-income people as consumers, producers, suppliers, and distributors of goods and services. 

The Business Call to Action is a unique multilateral alliance between key donor governments including the, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)UK Department for International Development (DFID), US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland, and the United Nations Development Programme — which hosts the secretariat — in collaboration with leading global institutions, such as the United Nations Global Compact, and the Inter-American Development Bank’s Opportunities for the Majority Initiative. For more information, please visit or on Twitter at @BCtAInitiative. 

About Ignitia: 

Ignitia is a high-technology company and social enterprise that has recently developed the world’s first accurate tropical weather forecast model. Our platform is aimed to benefit small-scale farmers in West Africa by sending a daily forecast via SMS, provided in partnership with major telecommunication firms.

We started in 2010 as a new research team gathered from different renowned universities and research institutions such as NASA. Using an approach that combines proprie­tary algorithms, uninterrupted 3-D multisource data and predic­tive artificial intelligence, our team of meteorologists, physicists and mathematicians spent four years developing a technology for superior convective weather prediction. 

For more information please visit or follow us on Twitter @IgnitiaWeather

Business Call to Action (BCtA) logo

Business Call to Action (BCtA)

Business Call to Action (BCtA)

Launched in 2008, the Business Call to Action (BCtA) aims to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. Worldwide, over 60 companies have responded to the BCtA by making commitments to improve the lives and livelihoods of millions through commercially-viable business ventures that engage low-income people as consumers, producers, suppliers, and distributors of goods and services.

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