Airtel funds weather information programme in Uganda

Uganda Farm Michael Shade Wikimedia CommonsWeather information will be provided to farmers as messages on the phone, spoken in local languages. (Image source: Michael Shade/Wikimedia Commons)Airtel is spending US$672,000 to support a project to provide timely weather reports to small-scale farmers in Uganda

The India-based telecom network operator is backing a project undertaken by the Trans Africa Hydro Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO) which is aiming to help both farmers and fishermen for whom the weather plays an important role in their occupations.

Nick van de Giesen, co-director at TAHMO, said that the project being backed by Airtel in Uganda was “based on similar activities, in terms of information dissemination, in Malawi and Madagascar.”

Spurred by research that shows that African weather was poorly monitored, especially for forecast purposes, the TAHMO project is helping to make good predictions about rainfall as well as provide information on how much water vapour the atmosphere contains, said van de Giesen. Saying that changing weather patterns have been the bane of farming across the African continent, he added that TAHMO was helping to “produce early warnings for heavy weather.”

“Normal weather predictions will improve with better observations and this helps to plan short term farming operations such as planting and fertilising, in addition, detailed weather data allow for weather-index-based micro crop insurance, in which payments depend on nearby measurements,” explained van de Giesen.

Since many farmers being targeted by the project are illiterate, information will be provided using spoken messages in the relevant local languages over the phone. van de Giesen said that “as long as the farmers or fishermen know how to use a mobile phone, they can receive the messages by simply listening in. We did a small trial pilot in local Luganda language during the preparation phase.”

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