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  • Climate Change, Ebola, and a Growing Food Crisis: Does Big Data Have Place at the Table?

    by Tarah Speck | Oct 22, 2014

    The spread of the Ebola virus throughout West Africa has devastated thousands, and has become a global public health crisis as it threatens to spread beyond the region. Public health workers scramble to contain the virus while treating an increasing number of victims, but another threat looms as a result of this pandemic: food security. Food access already hangs in tenuous balance from a technology and information gap, and the virus threatens to plunge the region into a major food crisis.

    Ebola has torn through Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, hitting hard the “bread basket” regions, directly impacting critical agricultural activity in the region. It has already vastly disrupted food commerce as farmers and their families fall victim to the virus, leaving fields abandoned and crops un-harvested, contributing to food shortages, Reuters reports.

    "Hunger will kill us where Ebola failed," Pa Sorie, a 61-year-old rice and cassava farmer in northern Sierra Leone, told Reuters.

    For Sierra Leone, 40 percent of the economy is agriculture-based, and government officials in Sierra Leone and Liberia acknowledge Ebola as a threat to food security and the need to act quickly.  

    What may be most alarming, however, is that this outbreak and subsequent food crisis may be directly related to climate change issues in the area, according to a 2013 report by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

    As a result of climate change and deforestation in the region, fruit bats infected with the virus have shifted their migration patterns to more populated areas, causing rapid spread of the virus across the region.

    Likewise, climate change further impacts staple crops like rice through seasonal droughts, strong winds, thunderstorms, landslides, heat waves, floods, and changing rainfall patterns, making crop production extremely vulnerable.

    But can big data play a role in diverting the catastrophic effects of climate change on global food security and the spread of infectious disease like Ebola?

    At the The Makerere University Climate Change Research and Innovations Centre (MUCCRI), students are addressing just that.

    In partnership with USAID and FHI360, MUCCRI focuses on building a hub of academic, professional development, and research excellence in climate science, climate adaptation and related disciplines. This initiative aims to build capacity to address critical issues of climate change as it relates to agriculture through research, policy development and implementation.

    Students are conducting original research to create and share complex datasets, building a comprehensive database from which other agricultural researchers, agronomists, and other stakeholders both domestic and international, can draw conclusions. Maintaining high data quality and data management standards will be critical to the project as data policies and implementation practices are developed as a direct result of this research.

    In September 2014, FHI360 invited aWhere Data Analyst, Courtney Cohen, to conduct a training for 30 MUCCRI students and other project stakeholders about best practices for data management and analysis techniques. Courtney discussed how the students could increase their data management capacity and maintain high data quality while conducting their climate change research. 

    100% of the participants reported that the data management training was relevant to their projects. Following the training, Courtney followed up with one on one discussions with participants to continue helping them build their capacity for data management.

    We are anxious to see the results of this important research to increase our knowledge and ability to proactively address climate change as it relates to agriculture, animal patterns, and the spread of other infectious diseases like Ebola in the future.

    Where have you seen big data have impact on global issues? Do you think big data or technology has a place in food security efforts or climate change initiatives? Comment below or to learn more, please contact us today.

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  • aWhere Leads Platform Training in Uganda for FHI360 and Participants of the Uganda Education and Research to Improve Climate Change Adaption Project

    by Courtney Cohen | Oct 09, 2014

    Last week, aWhere Data Analyst, Courtney Cohen, traveled to Kampala, Uganda to work with students involved with the Makerere University Center for Climate Change Research and Innovations (MUCCRI) and other project participants. Courtney led a training on the aWhere M&E (Monitoring & Evaluation) Platform and discussed how the students could increase their data management capacities and maintain high data quality while conducting climate change research.

    The Uganda Education and Research to Improve Climate Change Adaptation is a four year USAID activity implemented by FHI360. It is designed to help establish MUCCRI as a recognized national and regional hub of academic, professional development and research excellence in climate science, research, climate adaptation and related disciplines.

    The two, full-day trainings were well attended, with nearly 30 students and project participants receiving training. Each day, trainees reviewed data management practices necessary to maintain high data quality, and learned the critical importance of data quality.

    Students engage with the M&E Platform to learn how to maintain high quality data for climate change research.

    Courtney also provided a general overview of aWhere and the M&E Platform. She also trained participants in the three modules – the data library, the data analysis module and the weather module. She also demonstrated the critical functions and features inherent to the platform that help maintain high data quality. Trainees received an in-depth training on how to perform functions such mobile data collection, importing their own data spreadsheets, sharing data, and exporting weather data.

    Since the participating students are in the earliest phases of their climate change research, they were excited and eager to learn more about how aWhere’s M&E tools can make their project data easier to track, analyze and share results. After the training, Courtney met with students both in person and remotely to discuss study design, data management practices and database structure to ensure their project research is optimized for best results when using our M&E Platform.

    Courtney Cohen, Data Analyst at aWhere, leads training on the M&E Platform.

    Courtney and the aWhere Professional Services team will work closely with each student as their projects evolve, and will provide assistance throughout their studies. We are excited be a part of this climate change research and look forward to a continued partnership with FHI360 and MUCCRI.

    Want to learn how your organization or company can improve its M&E and data management practices through the M&E Platform? Contact our team today at: globaldevelopment@awhere.com

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  • 5 Ways Big Data Can Help End The Global Food Crisis For Good

    by Tarah Speck | Sep 25, 2014

     

    What IS big data? There are so many nuances to the term based on who and what company you ask, but we think this definition from Forbes is a good one: Big data is a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis.

    Big data has actually been around for decades (and was simply called “data”), but in recent years the term has become a hot buzzword in techie communities. Big data is everywhere, from financial institutions monitoring market trends, to media & entertainment tracking viewer/fan retention. Even the healthcare industry can now prove  a drug’s ability to improve patient health through big data.

    But how far can big data go to solve even BIGGER world problems like global food security?

    Weather variability, policies, and lack of access to resources are all factors contributing to the global food crisis. But at aWhere, we think that big data can and will solve global food insecurity.

    Here are 5 reasons why:

    1. Comprehensive 3rd party Weather Data = More Accurate Navigation of Weather Variability

    2. Weather drives ag, ag drives economies. aWhere integrates weather data from thousands of ground stations and orbiting satellites around the globe. Thanks to publically available weather sources like NCAR, AWIS, and others, we offer the most comprehensive and accurate global weather system to date. For a free trial, click here.

    3. Scale Up or Drill Down = Scalable Data is Better Data

    4. Let’s take the example of palm oil this year. A serious draught was predicted earlier this year in Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s top two producers of palm oil fruit. This caused the market to prepare for a lower supply and increased prices for consumers. Unfortunately for companies investing in this crop, the drought did not come, and a surplus of palm oil fruit flooded the market, negatively impacting the entire value chain from consumer pricing and demand, to commercial revenue, to the income of the farmer.

      This is where big data makes its power play. By pooling data from dozens of reliable sources, historical, current, and forecast weather data is more accurate with less surprises than ever before. Big data lets commercial companies scale up to immediately take a global or regional view for larger value chain decisions. Just as easily, a farmers’ cooperative can drill down into the data to make immediate field-level decisions as local as 9 sq. kilometers. Scale up or drill down, this is a game-changer in the effort toward sustainable agriculture and global food security.

    5. More Comprehensive Localized Weather = More Accurate Ag Decisions

    6.  Let’s take a closer look at how localized, field-level decisions can be made from big data.  Suppose we have a small holder cassava farmer in West Africa. Although he is illiterate, he is knowledgeable and open to new technology that will help produce better yields. An intermediary company with direct access to this farmer uses our platform to receive field-specific data that is immediate and actionable. Our information feed can tell them when to comb a field for a particular pest threat or when to look for a specific crop disease relative to the weather conditions of this season.

      This same intermediary company takes this customized, field-level information and sends alerts directly to the farmer through a mobile app that uses icons to communicate with the illiterate farmer. This puts the farmer in control of his field with data that is immediate, accurate, and relevant to him.

    7. Global data sets from third parties = Valuable Insights Alongside Your Own Data

    8. Want to see what environmental, varietal, or socioeconomic factors impacted cassava yields in Nigeria from 2005-present to make more evidence-based future decisions for cassava producers throughout Africa? Big data can do that for you.  

      We pull public data from third party sources like the World Bank, FAO, and Harvest Choice and house it in an easy to use library to draw larger insights alongside your own data. This robust resource allows you to make larger global, regional or national decisions in the future, improving your bottom line or project objectives, while better feeding our world.   

    9. One Platform Houses It All = Easier Decision-Making at Your Fingertips

    10. In a single platform, view big data for weather, agricultural insights and global information right in front of you. For example, with a few clicks of a mouse, you can see the comprehensive impact of weather variability, public health efforts, and farmer trainings on overall rice production in the Philippines. Big data really gets that specific, all in one convenient place.

      And let’s not forget, all of this big data is stored in the cloud, so your information assets will never disappear from a missing flash drive or sudden staff changes. It is your data, forever.

     

    Want to learn more about what big data can do for you and your organization or company? Contact globaldevelopment@awhere.com to learn more or request a demo.

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  • The Ups and Downs of Palm Oil: Brief Take on A BIG Data Solution

    by Tarah Speck | Sep 25, 2014

    Palm oil is everywhere. From lipstick to biscuits to biodiesel fuel, palm oil is a product in growing demand, particularly in developed economies.

    A recent report in the Wall Street Journal announced aWhere’s expansion into the palm oil market in SE Asia.  Together, Indonesia and Malaysia account for approximately 85 percent of all of the palm oil produced around the world, and 4.5 million people earn a living from this cash crop. The governments of both countries have set aggressive targets for the use of palm oil in growing domestic biodiesel applications.

     

    Palm oil fruit transported from a plantation. aWhere seeks to bring big data to palm oil companies to better navigate weather variability to produce stronger yields in the future.

     

    When Palm Oil Takes a Hit, Farmers Feel it Most 

    Despite ambitious expansion plans, the WSJ suggests that these targets are not being met, resulting in palm oil prices dropping by 18 percent from March to July.

    Earlier this year, overly pessimistic forecasts of a drought predicted a massive cut to palm oil yields in Indonesia and Malaysia. The drought did not materialize as expected, driving prices even lower as a more abundant supply entered the market than the demand required.  

    Guess who takes the biggest hit?

    Farmers.

    Like we always say at aWhere, “weather drives ag; ag drives economies,” and this is a perfect example of the critical importance of accurate, localized weather data in conjunction with actionable, field level insight provided directly to the farmer.

    Despite palm oil’s slump this year, the two governments expect to forge ahead to expand production of palm oil in the long-term, and the future of palm oil is promising. As our company and product line expands into SE Asia, we ask the question, “How can our weather data and SmartContent equip the palm oil market, from high level decision-makers down to the farmer with the right meaningful information to make the most accurate, field-level decisions?”

    Big Data in Agriculture: A New Competitive Edge

    aWhere provides data solutions at the high commercial level all the way down to the hands of a farmer. Let’s break this down even more.

    For decision makers of commercial growers and farmer intermediaries, aWhere products allow you to:

    • Navigate weather variability by accessing 30 years of historical weather data, daily weather and forecast data down to the field level.
    • Analyze the palm oil industry at the local, regional and global level to make smarter investments and business decisions along the value chain.
    • Make corporate-level decisions by leveraging aggregated data related to your market from our robust Data Library.
    • Send field level data directly to farmers from pest and disease alerts to market and pricing strategies, to input/output recommendations.

    To learn how aWhere can help you make the most evidence-based, field level decisions for your company, contact us at globaldevelopment@awhere.com.

     

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  • aWhere Combats Climate Variability for Small Holder Farmers, Expands to Southeast Asia

    by Tarah Speck | Sep 11, 2014

    If you were to step through the offices of aWhere, you would likely hear this phrase at least once:

    “Ag drives economies, and weather drives ag.”

    We know it’s a rather simplistic view, but we wholeheartedly believe it is true.   

    Climate and weather variability impacts every aspect of life on this planet, most profoundly, food production. Heat waves, drought, torrential rains and powerful storms all create potential threats for farmers: decreased yields, crop disease, pests, and a host of other issues.

    Over a billion people go hungry every day from global food shortage, and by 2050, we will need to find a way to feed a population of approximately 9 billion. Climate variability and growing climate change concerns leave us facing unparalleled food security challenges in the coming decades.

    But at aWhere, we believe that access to the right data & analytics technology can transform food security initiatives and agribusiness practices worldwide to feed our growing population.  

    Through our Platform, the following information can be just as easily accessed by a small holder farmer in a remote, low tech village of a developing country as a large commercial grower:

    • Real time weather forecasts updated daily to drive every day field-level decisions
    • Actionable insight for pest and disease alerts related to weather variability in their specific fields
    • Alerts for optimal seeding and harvest dates based on rainfall, drought, and other weather-related indicators at the hyper-local level
    • Recommendations on crop variety, fertilizer, and other inputs to mitigate risk and ensure highest possible yields

    Outside of North America and parts of Western Europe, the application of big data analytics to agriculture like this is virtually non-existent. aWhere knows that much of the world’s food sources are grown outside of these two regions, and seeks to make this technology accessible to underserved markets worldwide. We recently announced the opening of a new aWhere office in Malaysia so that we can expand our operations and target rice and palm oil markets in Southeast Asia.

    Our SmartContent Platform is user friendly, and integrates seamlessly into any existing program or budget management tools you already use.

    Contact globaldevelopment@awhere.com to learn how SmartContent can transform your agribusiness or food security initiatives today.  

  • aWhere Team Travels to Senegal to Lead Workshops on the aWhere Platform

    by User Not Found | Jan 20, 2014

    Last week, aWhere’s CTO, Stewart Collis, and Director of Customer Resource Center, Randy Jeske, traveled to Senegal to run a workshop educating students on incorporating the aWhere Platform into project proposals. This is part of Colorado State University's Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research for Adapting Livestock Systems to Climate Change. This particular workshop was in Thies (pronounced “Chez”), Senegal - which is an hour east of Dakar.

    The trip got off to a rocky start with flight cancellations and re-bookings due to the “Polar Vortex”, however the team was able to adjust the workshop a couple of days. aWhere trained approximately 15 people consisting of students, PhD’s and researchers. The project is designed to fund these students to develop proposals related to climate change risk and variability mitigation for livestock.

    The aWhere Platform is a perfect fit for their needs and these teams absolutely need both weather analyses capabilities and data management tools to manage their project data. Stewart provided a general overview of company goals and platform, while Randy did a training session on the Weather module. Between these sessions, they both worked with individual students and scientists to collect requirements for the project going forward.


      Randy Jeske training students on aWhere's Weather Module

    One of the students representing the group summed their experiences by saying that “their expectations for the workshop were far exceeded by aWhere’s training and tools. They are extremely happy to have learned about the aWhere platform not only for this project but for future work they will be doing in their professional careers.”

    aWhere will be returning to Africa in June to conduct another set of trainings for this project.


      Stewart Collis and Randy Jeske at the westernmost point of Africa

  • Climate Change in Central America: Why Weather Data Matters

    by User Not Found | Jan 14, 2014

    Central America, one of the world’s most vulnerable regions, is no stranger to climate change.  Small scale farmers from Mexico through Panama are facing challenges as weather patterns change and extreme weather events become more common. 

    A joint report released by Catholic Relief Services, CIAT, and CIMMYT in October 2012, entitled ‘Tortillas on the Roaster,’ discusses the climate realities facing Central American Maize and Bean farmers.  The report findings suggest a 1°-2° C rise by 2050, resulting in water shortages, land degradation and increased crop losses. 

    These realities demand action- this was a major driving force behind aWhere’s recent expansion of the Platform to provide free access to gridded weather data in Mexico and Central America.  Accessible and locally relevant weather information, limited in this region by a lack of meteorological stations, provides insight into weather patterns and allows farmers to make informed decisions.

    aWhere’s gridded weather data are available at a 5 arc-minute resolution (approximately 9x9 km grid cell).  These ‘synthetic’ weather stations offer visibility into localized weather content.

    Sign up today to access the Platform.

    The image below shows aWhere's free (public) access weather regions, and those available on a subscription basis.

     

  • A Year in Review: Confronting Climate Change and Innovations for Agriculture

    by User Not Found | Dec 23, 2013

    2013 was a big year for agriculture.  Global discussions have shifted due to the realities of climate change, which are already impacting small scale farmers throughout the world. Innovative solutions to drive agricultural intensification and to support small scale farmers in their efforts to keep up with a growing population are in high demand.  The aWhere team was busy in 2013 growing the Platform’s ability to provide data management in support of agricultural development.  This year, we’ve seen significant improvements to Platform features, the creation of new climate-smart content, and exciting new partnerships.

    But perhaps the most important work has been happening behind the scenes.  The aWhere team has been working hard to hit the ground running in 2014 with the market launch of aWhere 2.0.  With a focus on creating data management and delivery systems which support small scale farmers in their ability to cope with climate change, aWhere 2.0 is a full Platform update.  The Platform features user-friendly tools to manage data, collaborate with others, and act on evidence-based decisions.  More details on aWhere 2.0 will be released in January, 2014.

    2013 Highlights

    • aWhere’s growing weather database has seen significant improvements throughout the year, including the addition of weather alerts,  the expansion of geographic coverage to include Central America and Mexico, and improvements to rainfall and forecast data.  Increased marketing has led to a diverse and growing user community of development practitioners who utilize the free, interactive web-based tool to monitor local weather for a variety of development initiatives
    • A partnership with Colorado State University has led to the integration of satellite derived precipitation data into the aWhere Platform.  These data signify a significant improvement to the aWhere Platform and have better spatial and temporal resolution than existing sources
    • Travel to key conferences and events has increased our visibility and reach and has led to exciting new opportunities to fuel global development efforts through location intelligent data management

     
    Below shows 2013 aWhere Platform Weather Analyses.  Analyses done in the America’s are mostly by subscription based users; Africa and South America are free community edition users.

     

     

     

  • Rethinking Agriculture post Warsaw

    by User Not Found | Dec 03, 2013

    At this year’s UN climate talks in Warsaw, agriculture, once again, struggled to find its voice.  While there is insurmountable evidence that global food security will be threatened by climate change, agriculture was shunted aside, while negotiators focused on what they deemed to be larger climate related issues.

    What became clear from this conference is that agriculture cannot wait to get the attention of these negotiators.   The effects of climate change, discussed theoretically in these conference centers, are already a brutal reality for millions of farmers in the developing world. The future of agriculture doesn’t lie in the decisions made in Rio, Warsaw, or Paris; the future lies with the countries whose farmers are already confronted with climate change and are working hard to adapt.  

    Bruce Campbell, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security sums this up well in his piece Serious about climate change? Talk about agriculture’.

    “More and more developing nations are moving forward and addressing the climate crisis with whatever resources they can cobble together. If climate negotiators continue to drag their heels, the rest of the world may simply leave them behind.”

    This idea seems to resonate within the agricultural community, with many people speaking out about agriculture representing a crucial missing piece in the negotiations.

    Innovation in Agriculture

    So what does all of this mean for agriculture moving forward?

    “Innovation in agriculture is crucial,” says aWhere’s COO Dave Lundberg.  Unfortunately, most of the world’s farmers (in fact, about 85% of them) lack access to agricultural technologies.  How is aWhere addressing this? “aWhere’s Platform is generating data to support the millions of small-scale farmers who do not have access to advanced technology,” says Lundberg.  aWhere is ready to share these data and support the work of organizations currently fighting the battle with climate change in the developing world.

    A recent example of aWhere’s ongoing effort to create innovative data tools to support global agricultural development and climate-smart adoption, is the addition of a new, satellite derived rainfall product into the publicly available weather platform.  These data, which are more accurate than existing sources, are now available to aWhere Platform users, but this is just the beginning.  In the next few months, aWhere will enable color rendered mapping of this precipitation data, allowing users to visualize rainfall over an entire region.  This product will bring visibility to rainfall in regions where even the most basic weather data is lacking, and is indicative in the types of innovative tools and solutions aWhere will continue to design and contribute in the future.  The image below was generated by aWhere through this new precipitation product, and shows daily precipitation for parts of Africa.

    Sign up today to become a Platform user.


  • aWhere’s New Precipitation Resource and its Importance in Agriculture

    by User Not Found | Nov 12, 2013

    Precipitation plays an important role in agriculture; this is especially true in developing countries, where rain fed agriculture is the dominant form of food production.

    For farmers who rely on rainfall, the complexities of climate change are magnified.  With limited access to weather information, farmers in the developing world often rely on seasonal knowledge and rainfall patterns to plan their season.  Climate change, which is leading to greater weather variability and more erratic weather patterns, will diminish these farmers' ability to rely on past knowledge to inform farming practices.

    aWhere is pursuing innovative ICT solutions to address the lack of access to localized, interpretable information for farmers.  Recently, the aWhere Platform, which offers open access to highly localized weather data through a web-based interface, incorporated a new global weather resource: satellite-derived precipitation data created through Colorado State University's Cooperative Institute through Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA).  This newly incorporated product has better spatial and temporal resolution than existing sources and begins to address the need for accurate precipitation data in remote regions of the world.

    While localized weather information is not a solution to the threats on agriculture and food production posed by climate change; it offers a useful tool to support the global development community’s efforts to sustain and intensify agricultural production to feed a growing world population.  For farmers who practice rain fed agriculture, this new resource will help to plan and manage growing seasons, enable in-season decision making, and provide overall visibility into rainfall patterns for a region.

    Register for the aWhere Platform to access this new resource.

  • Climate Change Variability Index Predicts Countries that will be Hardest Hit by Climate Change

    by User Not Found | Nov 04, 2013

    Last week, Maplecroft’s 2014 Climate Change Vulnerability Index was released, detailing the countries and regions facing the greatest threat from climate change.

    To create the 6th annual index, Maplecroft, a global risk analytics company, explored three factors:

    • Exposure to extreme climate-related events: countries were analyzed in terms of their capacity to deal with increases in temperatures and changes in sea levels, which may lead to events such as increased floods, and prolonged droughts
    • Vulnerability of the population: Maplecroft explored population’s dependence on agriculture, health statistics, and education to assess vulnerability to climate change
    • The ability to adapt to climate change: This analysis took into account economic factors, security of natural resources, and governance

    It is not surprising to see that the countries dominating the list are located in the developing world, with the highest concentration in Africa and South Asia.

    Of the 196 countries analyzed, Bangladesh was ranked #1, followed by Guinea- Bissau, Sierra Leone, Haiti, South Sudan, Nigeria, Congo, Cambodia, Philippines, and Ethiopia.  In these countries, populations are vulnerable to shock and the capacity to deal with increased weather variability is low.

    “It’s no coincidence that the regions with the direst projections are also the regions where aWhere is offering free access to weather data.” Says CEO Dr. John Corbett “Reports like these solidify the need for increased visibility into the near real-time data in these regions of the world.”

    Bangladesh, along with many other countries that found themselves towards the top of the index are included in aWhere’s free weather module, which offers web based, interactive access to highly localized daily weather updates, a 5 year history, and a 10 day forecast for crucial weather variables.

    Dr. Corbett reaffirms aWhere’s commitment to provide access to weather data in regions of the world that will be the hardest hit by climate change:

    “The aWhere Platform provides a tool for practitioners to visualize data and make evidence-based decisions in resource constrained regions of the developing world.  aWhere is committed to supporting global development organizations in their efforts to prepare the world for climate change.”

     

  • A Data Revolution in Global Agriculture?

    by User Not Found | Oct 21, 2013

    This year’s Open Access Week trails on the heels of the 2013 Borlaug Dialogue, where world leaders and global experts gathered in Des Moines, Iowa to discuss one of the greatest challenges facing our world: how to feed a growing population in the face of climate change.

    Open Access Week, historically an opportunity for academic and research institutions to promote the sharing of research, provides a platform for the global development community to continue a dialogue around the concept of Open Data.

    “Better access to research data, improved visibility into development initiatives, data sharing across organizations; these advances can help unite efforts in the fight against global hunger,” says aWhere COO Dave Lundberg, a participant at last week’s event.

    The desire for open data and improved visibility into development initiatives is gaining momentum.  In fact, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), which are positioned to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) in 2015, are calling for a ‘data revolution’.  The idea of a data revolution in global development was something that was largely undiscovered when the MDG’s were formed over thirteen years ago.  Since then, huge strides have been made in the ability to collect, analyze, and share data from all around the world.

    “Improved visibility into development initiatives and global data enables evidence based decision making, and tools providing this visibility are increasing in demand,” says Lundberg.

    Tools like the aWhere Platform can provide structure and real-time insight into to food security initiatives.  aWhere’s data management solution provides tools to analyze, visualize, and share information on agricultural projects across the globe.

    Learn more about aWhere’s Open Platform for Global Development, or sign up for the Platform today to access our growing collection of climate related data.  

  • Weather Analysis Tool Offers Strategic Insight for Land-Based Initiatives

    by User Not Found | Oct 14, 2013

    The Global Landscapes Forum, a sideline event to the UNFCCC COP19 Conference in Warsaw, Poland this November, is focused on shaping the post 2015 climate and development agenda. Read aWhere's recent contribution to the Landscape Forum's blog.

    Original post found here: http://bit.ly/1e4d9hr

    Weather Analysis Tool Offers Strategic Insight for Land Based Initiatives

    People in the industrialized world reap the benefits of a well-connected and seamlessly functioning network of weather stations.  Instant accessibility to real-time weather information guides society’s day-to-day decision making - from what clothes to wear, how to get to and from destinations, to what crops to plant.  It’s difficult to imagine a world where a weekend weather forecast is not simply a mouse click away. 

    In many parts of the developing world, however, a severe lack of local weather information is a major setback for farmers, extension officers, and policy makers in their decision making process.  In many regions, weather networks are limited, non-functional, or non-existent. 

    Imminent changes in weather patterns are increasing the need for accurate, localized, and accessible weather information for sustainable approaches to land management and food security in the developing world.  The incorporation of weather data into project planning enhances the ability of practitioners to make evidenced-based decisions and offers strategic insight for farmers and extension workers.

    aWhere’s Weather Tool

    aWhere, Inc. is working to resolve this problem.  Our team has developed an interactive, online tool offering free access to weather information for Eastern, Western, and Southern Africa and South Asia.  aWhere’s weather data is created by interpolating weather information from meteorological stations and orbiting satellites to create quality data available on a 9km resolution grid - akin to having a meteorological station every 9km.  Weather data is available for key variables including precipitation, temperature, humidity, wind speed, solar radiation, and growing degree days (heat units).

    The Platform has a growing suite of tools to analyze and visualize weather data.

    -          Visualize weather data for a user-selected seasonal period

    -          Compare historical data against current trends

    -          Download all available data into excel for further analysis

    -          Receive weather reports for any location of interest, including an 8 day weather forecast

    -          Enable daily weather updates and receive alerts via email if a user-defined weather threshold is exceeded

    Visit aWhere’s Weather Details Page to register or to learn more about the Platform. 

    Contact us at weather@awhere.com to learn more about aWhere’s Open Platform for Global Development.

  • An Innovative Approach to Data Management for International Development

    by User Not Found | Sep 09, 2013

    There has been a lot of chatter about innovation following last week’s COIN summit in Denver, Colorado. The summit brought together innovative leaders and entrepreneurs throughout the state who are working towards unique solutions to national and international issues.

    aWhere’s CEO Dr. John Corbett and COO Dave Lundberg attended the summit to connect with other innovative leaders and to spread the word about aWhere’s work: the creation of a Location Intelligence Platform to help international development organizations manage their data.

    “The amount of information (data) collected by governments, international organizations, even generated through digital means, such as social media, is quickly growing; that data is often in inaccessible formats or even lost” says aWhere COO Dave Lundberg. “The aWhere Platform provides an innovative solution to leverage and harness the power of these data.”

    As the idea of open data and big data continue to gain momentum in international development, aWhere is working to perfect a platform which will seamlessly manage these data and allow for real time visualization, analysis, and data sharing across development initiatives. 

    In addition to the ability to load and analyze your own data, platform users will have access to the aWhere data library.  This library will host openly sourced datasets from a range of national governments and international development organizations, as well as provide access to aWhere’s weather module.  Data from aWhere’s data library can be integrated into analyses, encouraging collaboration and increasing visibility of development data.  

    A Data Revolution?

    aWhere is part of growing group of organizations dedicated to leveraging data for use in international development. Below are a few resources providing information on data and data accessibility:

    Global Pulse: A United Nations initiative, Global Pulse is exploring the use of digital data sources for international development - http://www.unglobalpulse.org/

    The World Bank: The World Bank has embraced the open data philosophy. Here you will find access to WB data sets and tools for visualization - http://data.worldbank.org/about

    AidData: Works to increase the transparency and accessibility of data collected for international development - http://www.aiddata.org/content/index

    Contact us to learn more about aWhere’s Platform for international development

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  • ICT’s Provide Critical Information for Climate-Smart Adoption

    by User Not Found | Aug 05, 2013

    Climate change is proving to be the greatest obstacle in Africa’s quest to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), and represents a profound challenge to continue feeding a growing world population.  Current projections from the UN estimate a world population surpassing 9 billion by 2050, half of the projected increase is expected to occur in 9 countries, 4 of which are in Africa: Nigeria, Ethiopia, the DRC and Tanzania.  An increase in agricultural production is the only way to continue to feed a growing world population.

    The full effects of climate change on agriculture are still uncertain, but it is clear that agriculture, which currently contributes to 14% of greenhouse gas emissions, will be one of the hardest hit sectors.  According to a recent Food Policy Report, released by IFPRI, food insecure populations in developing regions most vulnerable to climate change can expect yield declines in some of their most significant crops, rising prices in rice, wheat, maize and soybean crops and a decline in the calorie availability by 2050, resulting in a 20% increase in child malnutrition.

    In order to prevent this future from becoming a reality, adaptation and mitigation efforts in agriculture must be combined to tackle the threat posed by a changing climate.  Often referred to as the triple win, climate-smart agriculture looks to decrease the environmental impacts of farming, increase productivity and strengthen farmer’s resilience to climate change.  By minimizing the harmful effects of farming, and maximizing small-holder productivity, climate-smart agriculture has the potential to fuel agricultural production and feed a growing population.

    Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) like the aWhere platform provide crucial information instantly to players across the agricultural value chain; representing an opportunity to drive the adoption of climate-smart practices.

    aWhere’s technology is perfectly positioned to support climate-smart agricultural projects.  Through the aWhere platform, practitioners can gain contextual insight from real-time, on the ground data, allowing for evidence-based decisions and the achievement of climate-smart production.

    The ability to view and interact with localized weather data means that weather risks associated with climate change can be managed, and the addition of long-term climate scenario forecasting (coming soon) will allow for location specific risk models to be created.  Additionally, through the integration of weather and other environmental data, climate-smart recommendations can be pushed to farmers, advising on what and when to plant, providing weather forecasts and climate-smart farming tips to increase farmer productivity and decrease environmentally harmful farming practices.  

    While ICT’s themselves are not a solution to the threat posed by climate change, they represent a great opportunity to access critical information and collaborate on climate-smart models in a changing world.

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  • Farming for Africa’s Future

    by User Not Found | Jul 22, 2013

    "Can Africa feed Africa" was the theme of the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW), July 15th-19th, in Accra, Ghana.

    "Africa can feed Africa. Africa should feed Africa. And I believe that Africa will feed Africa,” said Professor Kanayo Nwamze, IFAD President.

    aWhere Data Analyst Rhiannan Price described a palatable, growing excitement throughout the week as key stakeholders discussed the various ways African agriculture will support the growing continent.

    “By the end of the week, there was a keen awareness of the huge potential for Africa to feed its own population.”

    Key topics addressed during the conference included the spread of new agricultural technologies, the movement towards ‘climate-smart’ adaptation, an acknowledgement that females and youth play a critical role in agriculture, and the importance of communication and collaboration across the agricultural value chain.

    Communication and collaboration are essential to Africa’s agricultural transformation as part of the 2015 development agenda. This is evidenced by organizations like CGIAR, whose CEO’s keynote speech at AASW urged the formation of partnerships, collaboration across projects and a standardization of practices. 

    “At aWhere, we believe that collaboration is a vital aspect of agricultural development in Africa,” says CEO Dr. John Corbett. “Through collaboration and greater transparency, efforts can be optimized; ensuring resources and energy are targeted in the right places and at the right time.”

    aWhere’s location intelligence platform puts an emphasis on real-time collaboration, allowing users to not only visualize their own project data, but also compare it with data and resources from a variety of projects from the village all the way to the national and international level. Systems like the aWhere Platform are prime examples of advances in tools to foster open communication between various agricultural research and development projects.

    The crucial role agriculture plays in development is becoming increasingly clear: promoting agricultural production in Africa will fuel development through the cultivation of a healthy, productive population of determined Africa citizens. Collaboration, the formation of partnerships, and an open flow of knowledge, data and research represent a central part of achieving this future.    

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  • Weather Surfaces: Targeting for the Final Mile

    by User Not Found | Jul 15, 2013

    aWhere’s daily weather surfaces (available in 9km grid cells) are optimized to deliver key weather variables on a daily basis. These interpolated grids are never missing data.  This enables users to confidently create and exercise bioclimatic indicators.   

    Bioclimatic indicators could be as simple as a heat stress model or as complex as a crop simulation model.  When weather data is viewed over an entire area of interest - rather than in a single grid cell - the resultant ‘map view’ enables more precise spatial and temporal targeting of activities, interventions, and investments.  With these weather surfaces, users can target or prioritize where, within their area of interest; effort should be focused or concentrated.   The final mile – reaching individual farmers or families – is easier to achieve when you know in advance that your effort can be focused in a more specific area within your larger target region.

    Example: Drought Report Map

     

    This image shows weather variables spread across a region.  Given this information, an agricultural NGO monitoring plant water availability would be able to quickly visualize drought patterns and target areas for different types of interventions. For example, it is immediately apparent that the areas in blue (receiving 80-100% normal rainfall) will see the greatest ROI of fertilizer application.  Recommendations can be targeted to farmers receiving sufficient rainfall, thereby ensuring they have the support they need to see a successful harvest.

    This is final mile messaging.

    The data shown in this map are made possible through the incorporation of satellite derived rainfall data through Colorado State University, available August 2013 through the aWhere Weather module. With more accurate rainfall data, the actual spatial extent of ‘drought’ can be more completely understood and appropriate responses targeted.

    aWhere assists users who desire weather data covering their area of interest – all the grid cells.  Our plan is to implement an API that enables users to pull these data at will.  For now, users can either click and download each grid cell of interest through the on-line module or send a request to us (lizzyleighty@awhere.com) along with a shape file delimiting your area of interest. 

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  • Why Weather?

    by User Not Found | Jul 02, 2013

    Weather matters. You may be a small-scale farmer making critical decisions for your land based on a weather forecast, a researcher using weather patterns to identify where to grow certain crops or the risk of specific varietal production or a policy maker guiding national policy with weather information; regardless localized weather data plays a crucial and growing role in agricultural development across the agricultural value chain.  

    A recent report released by the World Bank, Turn Down the Heat, Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience, explores current and future outlooks for climate change in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia.  These regions are expected to be disproportionally affected by climate change due to a combination of extreme weather events and already vulnerable populations.  The report highlights extreme heat and changes in rainfall patterns as some of the key findings; these changes will significantly affect agricultural practices in these regions.  Armed with localized weather information, farmers, extension workers, researchers and policy makers can make informed decisions, which can mean the difference between food security and hunger for many small-scale farmers in these regions.

    aWhere’s weather module offers free, localized weather data for areas of Western, Eastern and Southern Africa and South Asia. Take a look at some unique ways organizations are using the platform:

    • Developing bio-climatic indicators showing the impact of weather on farmer’s food security and economic development
    • Simulating crop growth models in areas where weather stations are not available
    • As guidelines for establishing new field trial locations
    • Mapping yields of various crops with respect to weather – and production risks between years/seasons
    • Comparing weather data to prevailing climate records to better understand climate patterns
    • Utilizing weather data as part of early warning systems, or to predict the occurrence of climate-driven events

    Not an aWhere Weather user? Sign up now to access free, localized weather data.

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  • Open Data: Transforming the Fight Against Global Hunger

    by User Not Found | Jun 03, 2013

    In Othidhe, Kenya, a female farmer head of household has just received a SMS message from the Ministry of Agriculture’s farmer extension services, providing her with an 8 day weather forecast in her local language, which is predicting rain.  The forecast also comes with an important recommendation: with the soil wet from rains, and based on the time of year and a seasonal forecast, this weather-window is the optimal time to plant cassava. The farmer is able to make an informed, ‘climate-smart’ decision and plant a crop with the highest probability of a successful harvest, and provide food security for her family.

    In Dakar, Bangladesh, a policy maker is comparing data from government funded rice intensification efforts throughout the Kishorganj District.  The ability to visualize project data side by side shows him that efforts are being doubled in the South, with very little attention being paid to farming communities in the North.  He is able to re-prioritize target areas, and scale up efforts in the North, before food insecurity occurs.  

    Continuing to feed a growing world population in the face of food insecurity, climate change, land degradation and increased rates of hunger is a daunting task. Though the number of malnourished people worldwide has stabilized since the early 1990’s, in the developing world 1 in 5 children under the age of five are still underweight (UNDP, Where do we stand). As the effects of climate change become a reality, farming communities around the world are increasingly vulnerable to the shock of extreme weather events and disruptions in food production, storage and transportation combine to exacerbate the sustainability of food systems. This increased vulnerability, however, comes at a time when improved technology makes critical information more accessible than ever before.

    Last month, agricultural leaders gathered in Washington, D.C, for the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture to promote accessible, relevant open data for the purpose of increasing global food security and agricultural production.  Reports out of the conference reflect a consensus within the international development community on the value of an open data philosophy in international development efforts.

    Since April, there has been an outpouring of datasets from leading development organizations, arming the international agricultural movement with vast amounts of crucial information; an important step towards a comprehensive and collaborative approach to agricultural development and food security.

    The next vital step is to provide the tools to ensure that the information is comprehensible and easily applicable to end users.  Policy makers, agricultural extension officers, researchers and farmers need an approachable interface to be able to integrate and visualize data to effectively transform this information into accessible, useable insight.         

    Some organizations are already looking beyond the spreadsheets, creating systems that harness these data to meet their particular demands. The ability to integrate data and visualize them in an interactive application is a key feature of the aWhere location intelligence platform.

    aWhere is compiling a comprehensive data library within their location intelligence platform, allowing for contextual analysis of data from a variety of sources across location and time. The platform, which currently offers free access to weather data, will be opened up to users in the Fall of 2013, creating an interactive one-stop-shop to analyze, visualize and compare openly available data.  Users can log in now to begin accessing weather data and be the first to utilize the platform as the new features become operational:  http://www.awhere.com/en-us/weather-p.

    A couple of other examples of organizations who are utilizing open data in a similar way include:

    • Open Data for Africa: A project of the African Development Bank,  Open Data for Africa brings interactive, highly visual access to country specific data for Africa http://opendataforafrica.org/
    • M. Farm: Utilizes market data to provide farmers with up-to-date marketplace information http://mfarm.co.ke/

    Agriculture is a source of food and income for the world’s poor and a primary engine for economic growth. It offers untapped potential for mitigating climate change, reducing the risk of food insecurity, protecting biodiversity and lifting millions of people out of poverty.  Creating an open data ecosystem to drive agricultural intensification worldwide offers a realistic and exciting opportunity for the international community to gain momentum in the global fight against hunger.

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  • Weather Data Contributes to the Ag Value Chain

    by John Corbett | Apr 02, 2013

    With the start of the March rains, Kitui, Kenya – a semi-arid location 100km east of Nairobi – is seeing the start of a good season.  This is a critical bit of information for all parts of the agricultural value chain.  Not only do farmers need to get their seed into the ground, but if the rains continue to be good, then fertilizer application is warranted. 

    Since agricultural service organizations are also able to monitor the rains, they will know when and where fertilizer will be needed and they can initiate targeted shipments.  Moreover, the monitoring of growing season ‘health’ will inform food processors of where  yields are likely to be positive, ensuring that bulk transportation is sent to the right areas at harvest.

    Monitoring the weather with a spatial perspective provides a mechanism to inform across the value chain. 

    The aWhere weather module is a tool to access current and historical, observed and daily forecasted weather – all available on-line by simply clicking on a location.  Risk, a key attribute to any on-the-ground investment, starts to become quantified as this historical record grows. 

    To improve our weather data, aWhere is taking multiple steps along several lines of investment.  First, we have begun installing automatic weather stations (AWS) on the sub-Saharan continent.  With two stations live, these observations serve to fill gaps in the current real-time observation network.  These stations will improve the resultant surfaces.  Next, we are initiating work with Colorado State University, whose Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere creates a daily, satellite-derived, precipitation estimate, custom fit to the aWhere weather module’s existing 5 arc-minute grid resolution.  These satellite derived data will be a tremendous enhancement to the existing – and future (for risk estimates) – information accessible through the weather module.

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