The best time to sow in Africa

When is the best time to sow wheat or maize? In Ghana and other countries in West Africa, this question used to be easy to answer: sometime in May, shortly after the second rain shower. Then you could be sure that the rainy season had begun and your plants would mature. But climate change means rainfall patterns are becoming erratic and unpredictable. “There is still 900 to 1,200 millimetres of rainfall annually, but it comes in heavier showers mixed with longer periods of drought,” explains Sehouevi Mawuton David Agoungbome, who is researching drought and agricultural techniques in West Africa as part of the research group of Nick van de Giesen, professor of Water Management (CEG). The best time to sow is now some weeks later, says the researcher, who is trying to understand the climate using satellite measurements and weather stations. He uses models to simulate how the yields of various crops can be optimised.

The research project is part of Twiga, an EU Horizon2020 project that is collecting geoinformation on weather, water and climate in Sub-Saharan Africa. The ultimate goal is that both farmers and the financial institutions that provide the loans can benefit from this information.