Feature: Kenyan develops agro-weather platform to help farmers

by Peter Mutai

NAIROBI, April 21 (Xinhua) — A Kenyan has developed an innovative virtual agro-weather advisory platform that is aimed at providing timely, relevant and usable climate and weather information to farmers in East African region.

The virtual platform for Agro-Weather Advisory Services (Pawa-Farm) is an innovative idea that combines various Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) tools to provide farmers with latest information on climate and weather.

“The idea is modeled with a projected climate and weather conditions to enable farmers make informed decisions and improve farm management practices under conditions of climate risk,” Sam Owilly, the organizations founder told Xinhua in an interview on Thursday.

The platform is an integrated approach that includes corresponding agricultural advice with the solutions to what the farmers need to do in the wake of climate change effects in their farming activity.

“We are process weather information that is relevant to farmer’s needs from the Kenya Meteorology Department (KMD) and simplify it for them to understand easily and act,” said Owilly, the winner of the world’s first Climate Information Prize.

The information is then conveyed through mobile phones given that mobile phone penetration in communities in Kenya is 98 percent.

This revolutionary mobile phone technology is best for dissemination of information through Short Message Services (SMS).

This new idea is set to start its pilot operations in Makueni, Eastern Kenya in three months, a region that is badly affected by the ravaging climate change leading to shortage of food and pastures for livestock by relaying information on agronomic advisories.

“We want to work as an intermediary between KMD, agricultural experts and consumers and will start with 5,000 farmers,” Owilly, a climate change and program management specialist on food security noted.

He said that the project will then roll out to 800,000 farmers in the next three years and finally one million farmers in the whole of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan in the next five years.

Owilly revealed that the organization plans to make climate change information relevant to influence farmer’s production since they have been left at the mercy of consuming technical laded terms as weathermen transmit the information in the past.

The new model is set to empower farmers resist weather vulnerability and make them resilient and capable of setting their own destiny.

“Instead of using terms that are well understood with the experts on weather, we intend to give specific locations and the duration of the episode in question,” he added.

Owilly said that the information relayed by KMD regularly on weather trends are good information but do not help the consumers due to their technicality that requires translation that is often lacking.

Owilly who holds a Masters Degree in climate change and is also pursuing a Philosophy Degree in climate change observed that climate smart agriculture cannot succeed in the absence of smart information that is tailored to the consumers in simplified language they understand better.

Climate information prize has brought to fore a new thinking, an innovative way of facilitating not only sustainable development but a resilient one as well. Of the 115 submissions, only 13 made it to the top of the list.

The contestants were invited to pitch their ideas to the judging panel to make their case on the viability of their idea.

The Wazo Prize is the first prize of its kind to be introduced in Africa and it award cash prizes for innovative solutions using climate information to help the vulnerable.

Winning models will put poor individuals and households in control and enable them to access the information they need in order to better tackle climate uncertainty and risk.

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