The WATERAPPscale project in Bangladesh addresses the climate challenges that riverside communities and their agricultural lands face. By combining scientific knowledge, community expertise and technology, and by scaling up the same, WATERAPPscale empowers farmers with weather information, helping them practise climate-resilient agriculture.
Rivers in Bangladesh are the lifeblood of communities, providing freshwater and fertile soil for agricultural production. However, climate-induced challenges such as rising sea levels, intense storms and warmer temperatures threaten these communities and their lands.
The increasing demand for food exacerbates the problem, necessitating resilient agricultural practices. The WATERAPPS project in Khulna, Bangladesh, introduces a scalable solution to support farmers throughout the country.
A collaborative approach
To address the impact of climate change on agriculture, WATERAPPS, a multi-partner project that includes government and research institutions, introduced ‘weather clubs’ in Khulna.
These informal arrangements brought together scientists, farmers and agricultural officers, facilitating the exchange of weather and climate forecasts, in addition to knowledge on adapting to changing climatic conditions.
The success of this initiative has demonstrated the effectiveness of combining scientific knowledge and community expertise. Expressing his appreciation, Sujoy Thakuidar, a farmer in Khulna, says, “The forecast benefitted me a lot. If I had not got the forecast, I would have incurred a huge loss.”
Bridging the gap
Building upon the achievements of the WATERAPPS project that bridged the gap between national weather and climate services, and local needs, WATERAPPscale aims to scale it up throughout Bangladesh. By scaling up the project's services, WATERAPPscale can help farmers secure food production and reduce vulnerability to extreme weather conditions.
Spyros Paparrizos, Assistant Professor of Water & Climate Information Services at Wageningen University & Research, emphasises the importance of involving the farmers and customising services to ensure added value for everyone involved.
“In the WATERAPPscale, we are engaging with farmers to build trust and tailor our services to improve forecast transparency and accuracy, besides delivering timely and sustainable services,” says Paparrizos. “Future food security depends on the success of small farmers. Helping them utilise weather information to strengthen climate-resilient agriculture and food security will be crucial.”
Partnerships for success
To accelerate weather and climate information services, Wageningen University & Research has formed a partnership with Khulna University in Bangladesh, meteoblue – a Switzerland-based company offering weather services, and SpaceWek – a company that helps businesses connect with customers easily. This collaboration provides actionable knowledge on weather and climate, empowering communities to make informed decisions.
Sharing her experience, Lanoni Bairagi, a woman farmer and member of the weather school in Khulna, says that their paddy crops would have been affected by the rain.
The farmers had paddy ready for harvest and some paddy that had been harvested were left in the field. When they had a rain forecast, they worked overnight and moved the harvested paddy from the fields to a safe spot.
“All the farmers in this area harvested the paddy over a few days because of the forecast. The advance weather information helped us avoid some losses,” says Bairagi.
Unlocking farm potential
To achieve the goals of the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 – a comprehensive development plan introduced by the government, WATERAPPscale proposes replicating the successful weather clubs in other regions. This involves capacity building on weather data collection, interpretation and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) tools.
Highlighting the financial benefits for the farmers, Dipankar Mondal, sub assistant agriculture officer, says, “The farmers benefited financially because they could save the harvested paddy from getting damaged. If they had not, it would have been a financial loss.”
In addition to replicating the weather club model, WATERAPPscale aims to scale up an app that supports vulnerable local farmers. With the assistance of agricultural extension officers, this app will enhance farmers' resilience to a changing climate and unlock their farm potential.
Paparrizos emphasises the importance of including agricultural extension officers in the project. “The agricultural extension officers have a large network and resources and they can take up the services and sustain them in the long term, as they have direct contact with the farmers, and the farmers listen to them.”
Ensuring food security
WATERAPPscale has received appreciation from researchers, policy makers and farmers in Bangladesh. By improving the efficiency, transparency and sustainability of food production in river deltas worldwide, it can serve as a foundation for securing food security.
In the face of climate change and increasing food demand, WATERAPPscale offers a solution to improve food production and reduce vulnerability in Bangladesh. By combining scientific knowledge, community expertise and technology, this initiative empowers farmers to adapt to changing weather patterns, mitigate risks and practise climate-resilient agriculture.
With the support of partnerships, replicable models, and an app for enhanced resilience, WATERAPPscale is a potential tool to offer a sustainable and secure future for farmers and communities in river deltas around the world.