For millions of people living in East Africa, the Middle East, and West Asia, the coronavirus pandemic may not be the most severe setback of 2020. Instead, it’s locusts. Since the beginning of the year more than 450 billion of the grasshoppers have ravaged homes and devastated crops in these regions. In fact, the situation is so dire that up to 10% of the world’s population is under threat of hunger and more than $8.5B in direct damages is expected by the end of the year. For people living in poverty who are less able to weather these types of setbacks, they now find themselves between the pandemic and the plague.

While the global response to the pandemic has been seismic, the response to the huge swarms of locusts currently destroying the livelihood of tens of millions of people has been decidedly underwhelming. Most responses from major development organizations such as the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization have left many segments of societies underserved. For instance, many farmers, pastoralists, and frontline emergency responders managing distribution of food aid still don’t have access to predictive data capabilities to help them plan accordingly. But one organization with innovative weather technology, ClimaCell, is focusing its efforts on mitigating the locust problem with state-of-the-art technology and localized community-based insights. ClimaCell’s solution has the potential to not only alleviate the suffering many in the region are enduring due to locusts, but also provide actionable insights to solve myriad problems related to the weather. In doing so, ClimaCell can put many on a path to prosperity.

Addressing nonconsumption of weather data to boost prosperity

For many who live in high-income countries, access to weather data is a given. From thunderstorm and hurricane warnings to heatwave and flood alerts, information about how the weather might behave enables us to make better decisions. Unfortunately, because most people in emerging economies don’t have access to this information, much of how the weather will affect their lives is left to chance. We call people like these nonconsumers—though they’d benefit greatly from a given product or service, barriers like access and cost prevent them from using them. When innovators design products and services with nonconsumers in mind, they improve the quality of life for many. See how ClimaCell is boosting prosperity by increasing access to accurate weather information:

For farmers: Locusts are just one of many weather-related problems ClimaCell can help farmers navigate. In the context of locusts, the company’s actionable insights allow farmers to boost productivity and minimize risk by harvesting their crops before locusts swarm their villages. ClimaCell’s tech also enables farmers to know exactly when and how to plant seeds, apply fertilizer, and spray insecticides. This is distinct from other agricultural solutions that have focused on providing farmers with agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and seeds with minimal insights about the weather. Considering that a majority of people in many emerging economies get their livelihood from farming, an unplanned rainfall can be devastating.

For drivers: The lack of infrastructure in many emerging economies is often the first thing you see. Driving on bad roads that are prone to flooding is not only damaging to vehicles, but has contributed to poorer countries having some of the highest rates of vehicular deaths even though they have fewer cars and drive fewer miles. By providing accurate weather data to drivers about whether or not it’s safe to travel, ClimaCell can prevent many accidents. 

For insurance companies: Globally, insurance penetration in many emerging economies is less than 3% largely because insurance companies lack sufficient data to estimate risk. Due to the fact that millions of people earn a living through farming and other activities that are weather-dependent, access to accurate weather data can increase the comfort level of insurers to develop products for these markets. This will invariably have ripple effects on other parts of the economy as people will be able to take more measured risks.

The availability of weather data isn’t something many of us in wealthy economies think much about because we have access to it. But for those who are a rainfall away from losing their harvests, it’s top of mind. How many other products and services provide significant value for some but remain elusive to millions of nonconsumers around the globe? By addressing problems nonconsumers need solved with solutions that are designed with their unique needs in mind, innovators like ClimaCell can help people lead more productive lives and ultimately climb their way out of poverty. 

For more on targeting nonconsumers to create prosperity, see:

How to ensure inequality isn’t a lasting consequence of the pandemic


  • Efosa Ojomo
    Efosa Ojomo

    Efosa Ojomo is a senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, and co-author of The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty. Efosa researches, writes, and speaks about ways in which innovation can transform organizations and create inclusive prosperity for many in emerging markets.