This App Uses Science And Tradition To Warn African Farmers Of Drought

Written by Staff
farmers
How this new app uses science, technology, and local tradition to warn African farmers of impending drought and other conditions.Photo by Mark Kucharski on Unsplash

An app is combining weather station data with the traditional knowledge of African farmers to predict droughts. To help prepare farmers for the effects of climate change, Kenyan computer scientist Muthoni Masinde has created mobile platform ITIKI. The name stands for Information Technology and Indigenous Knowledge, and the platform sends farmers drought forecasts via an app or SMS message.

Although it uses meteorological data, Masinde says most African farmers can better relate to the traditional knowledge that is also used to formulate the platform’s predictions.”I grew up in a [Kenyan] village and I noticed that most farmers do not have any form of science to tell [them] when to plant,” Masinde told CNN Business. “They watch insects, they watch the behavior of animals and then they make a decision, ‘I think it’ll rain in two weeks’ time.'”

From CNN. Story by Isabelle Gerretsen and Michael Cross.

ITIKI employs young people in farming communities to gather photos and updates about animal behavior and local vegetation, such as which trees are flowering. They capture their findings on the ITIKI app, and ITIKI collates this information with data from local weather stations to model weather patterns months in advance. Farmers can subscribe to the service for just a few cents,and receive regular updates in their local language, helping them make early decisions about which crops they should grow and whether to sell or save their produce.

Many African countries are especially vulnerable to climate change and small-scale farmers in particular, who rely on rainfall for their harvests, could face poverty and food insecurity, according to UN climate experts. That could have major economic repercussions. Agriculture contributes about 15% to Africa’s total GDP, according to a 2017 UN report, and accounts for around half of the continent’s employment, according to the African Development Bank.

Now a professor at the Central University of Technology Free State, in South Africa, Masinde launched the app in 2016 in Kenya, where agriculture makes up around a third of GDP. “Investments in climate adaptation solutions, especially targeting small scale farmers, would lead to GDP growth [in Africa],” said Masinde.

Read more at CNN.