Weather data on mobiles can boost Sri Lanka farming output, cut risk: think tank

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka should publish weather data in easy to access mobile platforms to help farmers mitigate risk, and helping boost agriculture, Institute of Policy Studies, a Colombo-based think tank said.

"It’s important to develop mobile platforms for farmers," IPS Research Officer Nimesha Dissanayaka said in Colombo, Thursday.

"Many believe that farmers do not use mobiles, but that is not true," she said at the New Thinkers’ Symposium 2019 forum organized by IPS. 

IPS had interviewed over 900 farmers in a study done in 2018.

Older farmers still use traditional methods to infer climate and weather data, as they distrust technology, she said.

The study found that elderly farmers still use methods such as animal behaviour, cloud cover, blossoming of trees and appearances of insects to gather weather information.

Dissanayaka however said that farmers do like to use mobile phones to access some data, such as harvest information, market pricing, crop protection, and land preparation.

As a project, mini-meteorological sites were set up in some areas.

The data was gathered successfully, but disseminating the information was a problem, Dissanayaka said.

She said if the climate data is integrated with popular apps that provide harvest and market information, the farmers could be better informed with nudging.





"Farmers like to use those kind of apps," she said.

"These (integrated) services are available in other countries, but not in Sri Lanka," Dissanayaka said.

"IPS research shows that weather information collected for agriculture should be integrated with market information, crop information and land preparation data," she said.

"The communication tools should be targeted to suit both the information and the users."

She said a better informed farmer would reduce climate risk and boost production.

The World Bank has classified Sri Lanka as a hotspot for climate risk in Asia.

Sri Lanka has an agriculture sector which is protected from free trade and innovation.

Land transfers are complicated, holding back economies of scale.

Around half of Sri Lankan farmers cultivate less than half an acre of land, according to Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy (Colombo/Mar21/2019-SB)


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