World Resource Institute

Increasing Food Security: Mali's National Meteorological Service Helps Farmers Manage Climate Risk

By Dr. Molly Hellmuth, Daouda Zan Diarra, Cathy Vaughan, and Rémi Cousin

In 1982, Mali’s national meteorological service initiated a project designed to provide farmers with seasonal climate information. The project responded to the critical link between climate and agricultural production, dramatically illustrated by a series of severe drought events that plagued the Sahelian region throughout the 1970s and 1980s. By providing farmers with information at critical points in the growing season, the project aimed to help rural communities manage the risks associated with variable rainfall.

Effective communication of information has been a major factor in this project. Climate information is processed by a working group into 10-day bulletins and 3-day weather forecasts. The former are given to national policy makers working on food security, and are broadcast through television and radio. The weather forecasts are downscaled to target regions and broadcast in local languages by radio stations, enabling them to reach rural farmers. However, obstacles still remain, such as low literacy among farmers and difficulties in translating technical terms into local languages.

Farmers who have participated in the project consistently report higher yields, and correspondingly higher incomes, from fields where agro-meteorological information is used. The evidence suggests that farmers affiliated with the project are able to use climate information to take more risks, invest in new technologies, and seek information from other sources in order to increase production and, ultimately, income.

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