People Daily

App brings weather facts closer to farmers

Arafat Mukasa is giving rural farmers access to information they do not get easily,  helping them make decisions that count

Arafat Mukasa, a Ugandan has come up with a mobile application that gives rural farmers weather information they could use to make better decisions.

Mukasa, a student at Technical University of Mombasa, pursuing a Bachelor of Science, Medical Engineering course, has created a mobile technology platform that provides comprehensive agro-meteorological advisory services to poor and vulnerable communities, households.

The information is also available to rural farmers who face the risk of extreme climatic conditions such as floods, diseases and drought. Mukasa, 22, believes that climate change and increasing energy demands are major global challenges at the top of the international agenda and Kenya, like other sub-Saharan African countries faces the uncertainty and potential risks of climate change.

“If not proactively addressed, climate change is anticipated to adversely affect the country’s sustainable development efforts including its ability to attain objectives set out in the Government’s Vision 2030 development plan,” he said. Mukasa was inspired to look for a better way of delivering weather information to farmers in 2011 when there was a heavy downpour in Budalangi that brought about flooding, affecting 24,000 families.

He was surprised to learn that most people were unaware of that downpour since they couldn’t access climate information from the meteorological department and that is when he decided to come up with a long lasting solution.

“In Kenya, the Kenya Meteorological department is the only institution that disseminates climate information and not many can access that information thus making farmers vulnerable to climate change,” he said.

Together with a friend they contributed Sh55,500 and started Mobile Agro-meteorological Advisory Service (Mobbias), a mobile platform with an aim of spurring innovation and solutions and making climate change information accessible.

He explains that the platform acquires meteorological information from various sources using multi-model ensemble technique then the information is aggregated, organised and analysed by an algorithm and a multi-disciplinary team before it is sent out to subscribed users in form of data that is simple and comprehensible to enable users make informed decisions.

“We want to reach every Kenyan and that is why our information is disseminated even in vernacular languages. Our subscription fee is Sh1,040 annually. For those who cannot afford the whole amount we accept instalment payment because our aim is to reach all Kenyans,” he said.

Mukasa says youths should come up with local innovations since agrometeorological services in developing countries have to shoulder greater responsibilities due to larger population pressure and changing modes of agricultural practices.

Currently, they have more than 100 subscribers. the necessity to emphasise a bottom-up approach so that forecasts, specific advisories and contingency planning serve even the small farmers for applications in their planning and day-to-day agricultural operations.

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