Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) is pleased to announce the launch of its online weather database to facilitate sharing of all its weather data with researchers within the Center and amongst its partners, particularly the national agricultural research systems.

“The website will provide access to daily weather records owned or distributed by AfricaRice,” said Dr Pepijn van Oort, Crop Modeler at AfricaRice, who has been closely involved in building the database.

The database includes historical weather data owned by the Center and daily weather data from weather stations set up in major rice hubs across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). It has also daily weather data from public data sources developed and quality-controlled by the AgMERRA project.

Long-term daily weather database is a prerequisite for studying the agricultural impacts of climate variability and climate change. Such estimates are critical for assessing yield gaps and food security scenarios, developing appropriate agricultural technologies and targeting agricultural investments.

However, it is generally difficult for agricultural scientists to obtain reliable long-term daily weather records from many regions (e.g., SSA). Sometimes the records are not available or if available, they have wrong and incomplete information. Often users have to pay high prices or follow long bureaucratic procedures to get access to such data.

“Such procedures can cause much frustration amongst scientists,” said Dr van Oort. “The AfricaRice online weather database can be freely accessed, with no restrictions. We are keen to maximize access to reliable weather records and avoid loss of data.”

Dr van Oort explained that the development of the AfricaRice weather database and website started in 2012, when the Center distributed weather stations to its national partners in the 46 rice hubs set up in SSA. Then, data from AfricaRice research sites in Cotonou (Benin), M’bé (Côte d’Ivoire) and Ndiaye and Fanaye (Senegal) were added.

“In my work, I often use climate forcing datasets for crop modeling, however such datasets are in a format meant for meteorologists, which is not useful for agronomists and plant breeders,” remarked Dr van Oort. “So, we process them into the same format as the rest of the AfricaRice weather data.”

The AfricaRice online weather database is managed by Ms Perpetue Kouamé, Research Assistant under Dr van Oort. “It has been exciting to develop and maintain this website. I am responsible for its performance, integrity and quality control,” Ms Kouamé said.

Gratefully acknowledging the contributions of partners, Dr van Oort said, “This database could not have been built without the collaborative effort of various partners in collecting weather data.”

He highlighted that the AfricaRice online weather database will continue to grow. “We hope that the database will draw many interested visitors and that the agricultural research community in SSA can fully benefit from it.