admin | September 19, 2016
Alioune Djaby walks through his dry millet field, eagerly waiting for a sign that might indicate rainfall is coming soon. In the past, Mr. Djaby looked for clouds in the sky or birds singing, but because of climate change, these signs have become unreliable. Today, he is expecting that a text message will deliver the weather report from the National Agency of Civil Aviation and Meteorology.
Mr. Djaby lives in Sikilo village in Senegal. Like many other farmers, he now relies on weather reports received via text message to make farming decisions.
Formerly, farmers used indicators such as trees blooming or the location of nesting birds to manage their crops. But not anymore. In 2015, for instance, the monsoon was expected in mid-May but arrived three months late.
Mr. Djaby explains, “When cultivating, if you do not have the right information, then you are walking without seeing the path.”
To help farmers like Mr. Djaby, the meteorological agency launched a free weather information service via text message. Weather updates are sent in French to farmers who volunteer to relay the information to their fellow farmers in local languages.
Ousmane Ndiaye is a meteorologist and researcher at the national meteorological agency in Senegal. He says that farmers are facing increasingly variable weather patterns. He explains, “The overall amount of rainfall has decreased in the past decades, as the rainy season starts later and lasts for a shorter amount of time.”
But thanks to mobile technology, Mr. Djaby and his fellow farmers are now using weather updates to make more informed farming decisions. Whenever the meteorological agency expects an extreme weather event like a heavy rainfall or windstorm, it sends a text message to farmers with a message such as, “Forecast: heavy rain expected in Kaffrine in two hours.”
Mariama Keita is another Senegalese farmer who uses text messages to improve her harvest.
Ms. Keita says that, in 2015, she harvested 1,500 kilograms of groundnuts using information received by text. She says this harvest is much better than when she used traditional methods to predict the weather.
She says she has fully adopted the text messages in her farming. She explains, “We now see that traditional ways of predicting the weather just do not work. With climate updates, I know that if it rains tomorrow, I can save my fertilizer for another day.”
In order to reach as many farmers as possible with weather information, the meteorological agency is also working with 96 community radio stations to broadcast weather updates. Farmers can tune in on their radio or their mobile phone. The agency has also trained the radio presenters on these stations how to interpret the weather information.
Tala Dieng is the president of the National Community Radio Network in Senegal. He says the text message service has helped reduce farmers’ losses due to the lack of reliable weather information. He explains, “We have seen a lot of lives and livelihoods lost in the fishing and farming industries because of adverse weather conditions and poor planning.”
The weather agency says it plans to expand the service by sending recorded voice messages through mobile phones so that farmers who don’t read can access the weather information.
To read the full article on which this story is based, Senegal’s farmers adopt new tool to boost harvests: Mobile phones, go to: http://news.trust.org/item/20160616095856-6ysjd/
And read the story from Footprint to Africa: http://footprint2africa.com/senegalese-farmers-utilizing-text-messages-place-atlas/
For a story about the use of mobile apps for rain forecasts in other countries, go to: http://www.scidev.net/global/icts/news/mobile-app-rain-forecasts-farmers.html
Photo credit: TRF/Emmanuelle Landais