IMAGINE week: Helping small farmers through relevant weather data

08 June 2017

IMAGINE week: Helping small farmers through relevant weather data

Smallholder farmers are key to food security in sub-Saharan Africa where two thirds of the population depend on small-scale, rain-fed farming as their main source of food and income.

Critical farming and household decisions depend upon the weather, for example, how much rain falls, the length and start date of the rainfall season and the timing of dry spells. Such aspects of the weather vary considerably from year to year.

The Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach aims to facilitate farmers to make informed decisions based on accurate, location specific, climate and weather information; locally relevant crop, livestock and livelihood options; and with the use of participatory tools to aid their decision making.

It was piloted in 2013 in response to the growing variability of climatic and growing conditions across Sub-Saharan Africa. Since then, almost 30,000 small-scale farmers in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have benefited from PICSA.

In Tanzania, Selina Sellas switched from planting maize to pearl millet.

"We calculated that you will lose your maize harvest seven out of 10 times in our climate," she explained. "Pearl millet has little probability of failure, so I chose that instead.

"I am happy as I now have enough food for next year, and I feel like I can better manage climate change."

Selina hopes to eventually receive weather and forecast updates to her mobile phone.

Because of the successful pilot, PICSA is now ready to be delivered in many more countries across sub-Saharan Africa and globally. Your support will enable us to help hundreds of thousands of farmers build resilience to the threat of climate change.


IMAGINE is the University of Reading's first Fundraising and Volunteering Campaign. The support received through the IMAGINE campaign is making an impact on special projects and our areas of internationally recognised research, stretching from our student support programmes to our work in Mental Health, Climate Change, Nutrition & Health and Business. IMAGINE will enable the generosity of our supporters to achieve the greatest impact through the work of the University.

If you would like to support climate change work at Reading, please visit

More information on PICSA is available here

Things to do now

Page navigation


Search Form

A-Z lists