Earth Today | Clarendon farmers apply local technology to boost climate-smart agriculture
SCORES OF Clarendon farmers have been using an innovative, locally developed technology platform, Revofarm, to boost their produce sales while strengthening their climate-smart agriculture practices.
Revofarm technology provides weather, market and field data via SMS and a web application. It allows farmers to access high-resolution weather forecasts, agronomic tips, and information on climate-smart agricultural practices, and compares specific crop prices at three of the major markets in Jamaica – Coronation, May Pen, and Linstead.
“The prices were always accurate, and you can depend on the accuracy of the weather forecasts as well,” said Kemoy Clarke, a farmer from the community of Top Alston in Clarendon.
“You would know how much crops cost and how much money you could make even before going to the market. And you could decide where to go, based on which one had the better rates,” said Clarke, who currently has sweet potato crops, but also plants Scotch bonnet pepper and pumpkin.
Clarke’s colleague farmer Ripton Weir also spoke highly of Revofarm’s market-pricing feature.
“The plus for me is the prices. Without it, you wouldn’t get a true reflection of farm produce prices in the markets,” Weir said.
The farmers were introduced to the technology under the ‘Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Change while Reducing Disaster Risk’ project in Peckham, Clarendon, and surrounding communities project.
The project, which is financed by the Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (CDRRF) of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and implemented by the Environmental Health Foundation (EHF), got off the ground last summer.
The CDRRF is a multi-donor fund established by the CDB to finance disaster risk reduction and/or climate change adaptation projects at the community level. There are eight projects being implemented across the Caribbean – five in Jamaica, and one each in Belize, the Virgin Islands, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Funding partners are the government of Canada and the European Union.
EHF’s Project Manager, Faradaine Forbes-Edwards, said that of the 60 farmers and three members of the EHF project team who had access to the Revofarm app, 34 had been using the SMS platform, while 26 had used the Android app on their smartphones.
“It’s a data-driven and climate-smart approach to farming that gives real-time access to information on weather, climate and markets through the mobile phone,” Edwards explained, adding that they were still working with a few farmers who had challenges to fully maximise the app.
Among the Clarendon farmers who used the ICT tool to improve her agricultural output was Arnett Williams of Morgan’s Forest. Williams, who grows bananas, plantains, pumpkins and yams, said she depended on the weather forecasts to guide what actions she took in the field.
“It was very useful because when I plant my crops, I use it to help me. Like when the time was hot the other day, before we started getting the rains, I made sure to water the crops or cover them with grass or some other type of mulch to keep them cool,” said Williams.
Co-founder and CEO of Revofarm Ricardo Gowdie said his company’s technology will save farmers on their total input cost per season, which he noted can be as high as J$70,000 per crop.
“One in every three Jamaicans is a farmer and yet agriculture only produces 6.5 per cent of GDP [gross domestic product]; and Jamaica is importing [goods valued at] some US$1 billion a year. Our technology will help farmers produce more food. This will help to reduce Jamaica’s import bill, while contributing more to the economy,” he said.
“In 2014, Jamaican farmers lost 28 per cent of produce due directly to climate change. By connecting farmers to climate-smart technologies and providing them with more and better access to agriculture-related data, like agronomic tips, weather patterns and field data, we will reduce guessing and foster more intelligent decision-making in agriculture,” he added.
Founded in 2015, Revofarm strives to leverage global field-level insight to increase smallholder farmer yields through local agronomic information.
It features observed and forecast weather factors – temperature, precipitation, chance of rain, conditions, wind speed, humidity, and solar radiation, along with comparisons to historic values; field-specific, scientifically-vetted agronomic models based on plant growth stages, maturity tracking and harvest readiness, pest and disease likelihood, crop stress; and crop price information for major markets in Jamaica.