Mitigating Low Agricultural Productivity of Smallholder Farms in Africa: Time-Series Forecasting for Environmental Stressors

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


African smallholder farmers have struggled with low agricultural productivity for decades, partly due to their inability to proactively assess irrigation needs in their farms in the face of long-term climate change. In this paper, we tackle this challenge by employing data-driven techniques to develop forecasting tools for three widely used crop-productivity related variables (i.e., actual evapotranspiration, reference evapotranspiration, and net primary production), which can then be used by farmers to take corrective actions on their farms. Prior work in this domain, despite using data-driven methods, suffers from two major limitations: (i) they mainly focus on estimating variable values (as opposed to forecasting the future); and (ii) they mostly use classical Machine Learning (ML) prediction models, despite the abundance of data sufficient to train sophisticated deep learning models. To fill this research gap, we collaborate with PlantVillage, the world's leading non-profit agricultural knowledge delivery platform for African farmers, to identify ∼2,200 smallholder farm locations, and gather remote-sensed data of these farms over a period of five years. Next, we propose CLIMATES, a meta-algorithm leveraging structural insights about temporal patterns of this time-series data to accurately forecast their future values. We conduct extensive experiments to evaluate its performance in this domain. Our experimental results show that CLIMATES outperforms several state-of-the-art time-series forecasting models. We also provide insights about the poor performance of some competing models. Our work is being evaluated by officials at PlantVillage for potential future deployment as an early warning system in East Africa. We release the code at

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIAAI-22, EAAI-22, AAAI-22 Special Programs and Special Track, Student Papers and Demonstrations
PublisherAssociation for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)1577358767, 9781577358763
StatePublished - Jun 30 2022
Event36th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2022 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Feb 22 2022Mar 1 2022

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 36th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2022


Conference36th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2022
CityVirtual, Online

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Artificial Intelligence

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