FarmBiz Africa

Farmers reduce crop loss, raise incomes, through early warning SMS alerts

Smallholder farmers in Kenya, Ghana, Malawi, and Zambia who received Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE) SMS alerts are benefitting from reduced crop losses and higher incomes compared to farmers who did not.

PRISE was developed in 2017 using earth observation data by the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International development charity (CABI). 

It allows farmers to prepare for pest threats in advance increasing the efficiency and efficacy of interventions.

This in turn reduces the reliance on ‘in case’ action, which is time-consuming, costly, and often ineffective.

According to a 2023 report by the National Institutes of Health, each year, Africa loses half of its harvest to pests. The estimated economic impact of invasive alien pests alone on Africa’s agricultural sector is $65.58 billion a year.

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For 2,000 smallholder maize farmers in Kenya surveyed in 2021, those who received pest alerts for fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) recorded a harvest of 2,089 kg/ha earning Sh18,020/ha. This is compared to smallholder farmers who did not receive these alerts where only a harvest of 1,988 kg/ha was gained with a lower income of Sh15,733/ha.

How it Works

PRISE works by gathering data from a variety of sources including satellite observation, weather data, geographic data, and details about the seasonal occurrence, abundance, and biology of pests.

This information is then combined in a ‘data cube’ to run algorithms, which ultimately produce pest time-to-act information. The information generated is used to give farmers timely alerts and advice to help manage local pest outbreaks as part of their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plans.

PRISE alerts utilise the ubiquity of mobile phones, 98% of African farmers own a mobile phone, in giving farmers access to important information to improve crop health, including how to manage crop pests.

The program partners with government agencies in Africa. These include the Kenyan Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO); the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) and Crop Research Institute (CRI) in Ghana; the Department of Agriculture Extension Services in Malawi; and the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI).

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Forecasts time to act

Using downscaled and processed Earth Observation data to drive the models, PRISE partnered with African national agencies to communicate pre and in-season pest alerts that forecast the time to act against key insect pests.

Alerts were designed to be integrated into country-specific Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) recommendations to provide a complementary package to agricultural stakeholders.

For example, by converting time-to-act information into maps coupled with PlantwisePlus GAP information, bulletins (PDF documents) were developed twice a month, combining the PRISE action alert with relevant diagnostic and management advice from Pest Management Decision Guides.

Prise alerts

For more details on uses of the data, models, and outputs: prise@cabi.org

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