The unpredictable weather conditions caused by climate change has become prevalent, forcing farmers to rely on speculations while farming. This has greatly affected crop yields and lowered productivity.
With over 80 percent of farmers dependent on rain-fed agriculture, there is a need to be able to predict the weather patterns in order to plan accordingly.
To address the issue, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) has developed a digital app to help farmers easily access weather information.
Researchers believe if farmers use the online weather platform, it is possible to adapt or mitigate the effects of adverse weather conditions through predicted weather forecast.
Irene Kimani, KALRO ICT specialist, says the Kenya Agricultural Observation Platform (KAOP) is a forecasting tool that assists farmers to monitor weather through their mobile phones.
She says KAOP is able to provide data on previous rainy days and predict long-term trends.
“KAOP is an app that has been giving me accurate information on weather forecast and some agronomy advisory services. Some of the information I have been getting is like the rainfall amount to be expecting and when to plant, harvest and what to grow at a particular season,” says Margret Wambui, a farmer in Njoro, Nakuru County.
Wambui, who is also an agrovet shop attendant, says since she started using the app, she has advised many farmers visiting her shop using the application.
“I share the information I get from KAOP with my customers when they come to buy seeds or chemicals. I ask them where and when they want to plant and I check on weather conditions for that particular day because some chemicals work best with minimal rainfall, otherwise they will incur losses and blame the chemical for not working,” she says.
Using the online application, farmers can now get weather information for seven days before and after.
Kimani says the application is designed to provide agronomic advisory services to farmers by providing information on actions they need to take in the various stages of farming, including soil preparation, sowing, adding manure and fertilisers, irrigation, harvesting and storage, as well as marketing period based on the weather conditions predicted.
Collins Kipchumba, a farmer in Njoro Rumwe farm, says since he started using the app, his production of Nyota beans has doubled.
“I learnt about the app in a farmers’ platform and since I started using it my bean production has increased from four bags per acre to eight bags per acre. For instance, if I want to spray, the app will indicate the strength of the wind in a particular day. If it is windy I will postpone my spraying to a calmer day to avoid losses, says Kipchumba.
“When I want to harvest, I use the app to check weather conditions to avoid post-harvest losses that maybe caused by rains.”
John Maina, Agriculture Chief Officer in Nakuru County, says the county has introduced this platform to farmers.
“By embracing the technology they have been able to bring the youth onboard who are particularly encouraged to download the app and use the information to do farming,” Maina says.
“This technology is assisting to know or predict how the weather is going to be in good time and give the farmers an opportunity to plan their production.”
The ICT specialist notes that the technology is 95 percent accurate, has the capability of forecasting weather within a radius of 9km and can zero-in on an individual farmer’s farm.
“Through the system, farmers get advisory services in time, hence alleviating losses they incur because of climate change. In the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, and at a time when traditional in-person farmers’ visits have been severely constrained, such phone-based advice is cost-effective and plays a key role in improving the productivity in farmers’ fields,” says Maina.
The tool developed by KALRO is among the ICT-based applications that KALRO is leveraging to bridge the gap of access to information between researchers and farmers, especially during Covid-19.
Since its launch, there has been increase of downloads by over 5,000 and 2.7 million website visits.
This indicates that the uptake is good and that farmers now have an easier way of seeking assistance from agricultural experts through the incorporation of digital technology into agricultural research.
Besides the KAOP technology, there are over 30 mobile applications that have previously been launched by KALRO to assist farmers with systematic information on how to manage crops. In addition, other apps address fall armyworm reporting and mapping, grey leaf spot disease resistance maize varieties and maize lethal necrosis disease control.
The technology is 95 percent accurate, has the capability of forecasting weather within a radius of 9km and can zero-in on an individual’s farm.
How to access: KAOP is easily accessible as a mobile app via google play store by downloading on https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.andromo.dev724321.app929771 or through a website www.kaop.co.ke .