Weather information delivery is Reality with mobile phones


''Despite rural environment, whoever you are ICT matters. Turn it into reality'' article comes from Severe Weather Consult.  "Bring weather information to rural farmers via mobile phones'', a reality to farmers in Musanze, Northern Rwanda''.

Figure1: Potato farmer applying pesticides in her farm in Busogo sector, Musanze District (Photo credit: Eng. Pascal of SWC).

Almost all African countries face similar challenges in socio-economic transformation and development, especially in rural areas. Same case here in Rwanda. However, SWC was thinking how ICT devices and new digital technologies such as mobile phones can transform the lives and improve livelihoods of rural local farmers by simply presenting a model named "bring weather information to rural famers via mobile phone".

In this context, SWC identified 26 consolidated farm sites that serve close to 6,000 farmers grouped into different value chain such as maize, irish potatoes, beans and vegetables in Musanze. Farmers are motivated and curious to learn how mobile phone will enable them to access weather information, alerts on floods and lightning and crop advice.

Figure 2 & 3: Farmer facilitators in Musanze during a meeting with SWC agricultural specialist, Eng. Pascal Twizerimana (Photo credit: Eng. Simeon of SWC)

'' We're facing floods at least twice per year and this affects our crop seasons. Famers can lose up to 45% of the crops produced because of floods, we're waiting for this tools to reach level of usage so that we get informed about severe weather events same as the farmers in some urban areas who basically have regular internet access", a potato farmer Karegeya Appollinaire have said. "Having SMS and mobile app serving our rural farmers with weather information will undoubtedly transform our knowledge, agriculture practices and increase our productivity," he has added.

''Some of us are professional farmers and own green house for at least 5 years, but we are struggling to manage greenhouses due to lack of ICT related knowledge. For example: How can I know whether my potato seeds in the green house need water with the help of a smartphone''. He also added.

KaregeyaAppollinaire, who is also the president of Seed Potato Fund - Ikigega said inadequate information on weather and modern agriculture practices related knowledge results in a mismatch between agricultural inputs and production.The Seed Potato Fund-SPF ''Ikigega'' is a private company with access to 300 professional potato seed producers aims at producing and disseminating good quality potato seed to almost 15,000 farmers in Northern and Western Rwanda.
Figure3 & 4: AppollinaireKaregeya, a professional potato farmer in Nyange sector Musanze is his green house of potato discussing with his experience and challenges with Dominique Mvunabandi of SWC (Photo credit: Eng. Pascal of SWC)

''At the District level, SWC technology of SMS and weather app. will help us in crop calendar monitoring, planning and Disaster Risk reduction implementation plan within our District. Therefore, partnering with SWC is a great idea towards increasing knowledge of farmers and their facilitators'' Mr JeanNgendahayo, Director of agriculture and natural resources in Musanze District, has expressed.

In 2016, WC has conducted business validation on the potato subsector in Musanze. This step was the validation of market assumptions, the interaction with targeted market segments as well as the test of proposed weather services and products, tools and market channels. As from, January 201, SWC is implementing a weather information system ''iHewa'' that generates accurate weather predictions as well as alerts on flood and lightning. Weather information will primarily be available on mobile phones. Residents of Musanze and farmers can use the timely weather information to plan their daily activities; and take safety precautions before disaster strikes.

To successfully implement the system, the partnership agreement was signed between Meteo-Rwanda and TAHMO. Both organizations are looking forward to reinforce their relations and cooperation in order toencourage the adoption, sharing, use, and subsequent partnership in (1) capacity building in Weather and climate related services and other associated technologies such as Geo-information Science and Earth Observation Technologies and (2) developing a robustnetwork of automatic weather stations (AWS) in Rwanda.

SWC is representing TAHMO in Rwanda and will be responsible for station installation, maintenance and product development.

More details on Severe Weather Consult: