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Why Pay for a Weather Forecast If It’s Free Online?

This post was written by Elisabeth Simelton and originally appeared on Agroforestry World's blog.

World Agroforestry Centre/Robert Finlayson

Photo: Finding practical weather forecasts can be an uphill climb for farmers. Credit: World Agroforestry Centre/Robert Finlayson.

Did you check the weather forecast for today? Did you do it on your phone?

In Vietnam, over 95 percent of farmers in Dien Bien and Ha Tinh provinces watch weather forecasts on TV. However, these forecasts are often only for a few days ahead and the information is not specific enough to be useful for making decisions about farm management.

Responding to the gap in practical agricultural weather information, and seeing the growing demand, a number of digital-services providers have created tailor-made, agro-climatic information products for farmers. The most common use short-message services and smartphone apps to share short-, medium- and longer-term weather forecasts combined with agricultural management advice and market prices. One example of this kind of app is Crop Manager, produced by the International Rice Research Institute, which provides small-scale rice, wheat and maize farmers with crop and nutrient management advice customized to farming conditions and needs.

But such services cost money to establish and run. Would farmers be willing to pay for more detailed information specific to their area? To find out, researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre conducted a survey of 400 male and female farmers in Ha Tinh province as part of the Using Information to Enhance the Adaptive Capacity of Women and Ethnic Minorities in Southeast Asia project’s Agro-climatic Information Systems component, which operates under the aegis of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. Sixty percent of the farmers said they were willing to pay for seasonal weather forecasts that included agricultural advice. But when asked how much, only half of them were prepared to pay up to USD 1 a month. Moreover, forecasts are probabilities of future weather that are subject to any number of variables that can change the outcome. When paying for a service, there might be an expectation that... Read more on Agroforestry World.