A time to sow and a time to reap

Wheat and wisdom in rural Kazakhstan

people standing in a field

Agriculture is one of they key industrial sectors impacted by our changing climate.

Kazakhstan is the world’s ninth largest producer – and seventh largest exporter – of wheat. Wheat is the number one source of protein in the human diet, and according to Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Energy, the country faces temperature rates rising twice as high as the rest of the world due to its arid conditions and landlocked status.

Highlights

  • Kazakhstan is the world’s ninth largest producer – and seventh largest exporter – of wheat
  • Thanks to new software, meteorologists can issue climate forecasts for the whole season in a few seconds
  • 600 farmers are actively cooperating with Kazhydromet in order to get up-to-date weather and climate forecasts
  • Participating farmers have reported a 20 percent higher yield on average

How can farmers and agriculturalists prepare for the worst without clear and accurate weather reports? With rapidly changing forecasts the norm, ensuring accurate meteorological reports have never been more important.

Until recently, however, weather forecasters in Kazakhstan have had a problem. Relying on the vagaries of an age-old manual system consisting of worn out maps, and indecipherable hand-written data, the experts found themselves repeatedly at a loss.

Gulmira Akisheva, head of the Meteorology department in the National Hydrometeorological Agency, Kazhydromet, recalls having to go through 2,500 map pages from their 70-year archive.

"Even the most experienced forecaster can easily make mistakes using the paper based method," Akisheva says. "The inconsistent and inaccurate weather forecasts impede the farmers' ability to harvest. Trust of citizens towards our organization has been very low."

A new initiative, however, is working to bring new life to weather forecasting - and to the farmers’ harvest. In cooperation with USAID and UNDP in Kazakhstan, Kazhydromet is seeking technical expertise from some international experts to bring their working methods into the 21st century.

The activity has also merged the efforts of multilateral international experts from the USA and Russia to jointly develop infrastructure, which would help the Kazhydromet to make that transition – digitally transferring archival climate mapping data from the past 70 years.

"The new system will allow us to compare incoming data with that of any previous years, making the information we pass on to the farmers much more reliable," Akisheva says.

Using the new software, meteorologists can issue climate forecasts for the whole season in a few seconds which they can in turn, communicate to the farmers right away. Farmers are then able to use the reliable data to better plan and optimize their harvest.

With 600 farmers actively cooperating with Kazhydromet in order to get up-to-date weather and climate forecasts, participating farmers have reported a 20 percent higher yield on average.

According to UNDP Project Manager, Yerlan Zhumabayev:

"Sixty percent of Central Asian countries' diets are based on wheat, so the wheat yield alone can directly affect food security and stability of our region. Delivering an accurate climate forecast could play an essential role to fight against hunger.”

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