WeFarm Weather & Climate Message Analysis

Project: WeFarm Weather & Climate Message Analysis

Overview: WeFarm, a London-based social enterprise, provides an SMS text platform for small scale farmers in developing countries, without internet access, to receive peer to peer advice on their crops and livestock. Climate change has increased the need for these vulnerable farmers to access simple, accurate information quickly – for instance in Kenya this year the rainy season which farmers relied on starting in the last week of February, or at the latest, the first week of March, began in the last week of March.

IEA Data Scientist Dr Ben Lloyd-Hughes collaborated with WeFarm to analyse the content of texts between farmers referencing weather and climate to establish whether there was a need to extend the service, providing specific advice.

Simple visualisation such as word clouds illustrated the most common topics in around 160,000 messages sent between January 2014 and February 2016. A detailed semantic analysis, which had to allow for highly irregular grammar and spelling, revealed a clear demand for climate service information. The analysis further indicated that there is potential value in an educational service to send geographically targeted advice messages of potential climate impacts when applicable e.g. El Niño. (One farmer’s message, for instance, asked if it was safe for his animals to drink El Niño rainfall).  It also highlighted the opportunity for a ‘recommend-a-crop’ service.

The results were presented at Understanding Risk 2016 on a platform shared with USAid where the potential for using WeFarm’s platform as an interactive tool for improving the provision of climate services generated significant interest.

Partners: WeFarm, IEA