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CRAFT tool helps Ethiopian experts predict crop yields to improve early warning decisions

26 August 2022, Africa: The food security of millions in East Africa – particularly Ethiopia – has been undermined by climate shocks on predominantly rain-fed agriculture. Crop production in the region is threatened by recurrent droughts and flash floods, becoming more common in a changing climate. In Ethiopia, cereals comprise 82% of the crop area. In such a grain crop production-dominated region and countries, there is a strong need for monitoring and forecasting crop yields to support decisions on food security for early action.

The CCAFS Regional Agricultural Forecasting Toolbox (CRAFT) is a software platform for predicting crop yields by integrating crop models that simulate crop growth and development and the Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) – a software package for constructing a seasonal climate forecast model, performing model validation, and producing forecasts given updated data. As a powerful, advanced information tool, farmers and food security decision-makers would be better positioned to manage within-season climate risk to agriculture.

CRAFT addresses the lack of accessible tools that integrate seasonal climate forecasting and crop modeling to meet the needs of farmers, scientists, and policymakers through open-source platforms tailored to user needs. This makes the tool flexible and adaptable to various end-users.

The Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) team in Ethiopia conducted a five-day training workshop from 23-27 December 2021 on the CCAFS Regional Agricultural Forecasting Toolbox (CRAFT) Tool in Adama, Ethiopia. A five-day training workshop – organized in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture – helped national experts who collect crop data to use the CRAFT tool efficiently to give faster and more accurate results and analysis. The 12 participants of the training were different experts from the (MoA), the National Meteorology Institute (NMI), and the Ethiopian Disaster Risk Management Commission (EDRMC).

The tool has been calibrated and evaluated for Ethiopian weather and climate-related conditions. It has been tested over the last three years under the Capacitating African Smallholders with Climate Advisories and Insurance Development (CASCAID-II) project.

Institutions need to be equipped with the necessary analytical and decision support tools that enable decision-makers to make critical decisions at the right time due to the food security challenges faced by a rising population under climate change. This is what Esayas Lemma, the Director of the Crop Development Directorate at MoA, argued at the opening of the training session.

He added that the training organized by CIMMYT through AICCRA-Ethiopia was timely and essential for enhancing the capacity of the experts drawn from the three institutions and building national capacity in the use of modern decision support tools.

Kindie Tesfaye, a Senior Scientist at CIMMYT, emphasized how the training was organized to boost the capacity of experts in national institutions so they can effectively use predictive tools that apply the best information to help make decisions that can save lives, minimize cost and broaden the policy options available to manage long-term climate risk in Ethiopia.

“The training is an eye-opener for me, and this is the type of tool that we have been looking for for years,” said one of the EDRMC trainees.

“The CRAFT tool has several applications in the MoA, and we are lucky to have this training. With some additional training, we at the ministry should be able to use it routinely to support our crop monitoring and early warning works,” said an MoA trainee.

“I am grateful to participate in the training and found the practical nature of the tool which can be even used from my office without the need to go further. My next effort will be using CRAFT in my work as an expert,” said an NMA trainee.

The training has demonstrated the use and application of the CRAFT tool for crop yield forecasting and monitoring in Ethiopia, where climate variability is the major cause of food supply deficit and food insecurity. The Ministry of Agriculture has already started to use the tool for maize yield forecasting. It has made necessary preparations to use the tool for forecasting the yield of major food security crops such as wheat, teff, sorghum, and legumes. AICCRA will continue providing follow-up training to experts in the MoA, NMA, EDRMC to create a critical pool of experts on crop yield forecasting and monitoring in the respective institutions.

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