Saturday December 16, 2017

Climate information is extremely crucial to small-scale farmers who are vulnerable to climate change and weather extremes. Daily, weekly and seasonal forecast help them to make informed decision and better manage risks associated with agro-pastoral life.

Kitui Farmer

The Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) a member of the Adaptation Consortium has since 2014 been disseminating new climate information in Makueni and Kitui through the use of Climate Information Service (CIS) Intermediaries who were trained to interpret and disseminate weather information within their communities. The CIS intermediaries receive text messages about the weather on a daily, monthly and seasonal basis from Kenya Meteorological Department advising them on the daily, monthly seasonal forecast, and alerts on impeding sudden weather changes.

In ensuring that the climate information is usable, the County Director of Meteorology Services together with technical experts from Agriculture, Public Health, Water, Wildlife, Kenya Forest Services and other interested partners hold a participatory scenario workshop to come up with scenarios on how the climate information can be applied in the different sectors within the County and wards in some cases. The disseminated climate information and advisories include the amount of rainfall expected, its start and cessation, along with agricultural advice and the type of crop seeds farmers should plant.

A group of women – Huruma Women Group - have been using weather information for preserving locally available food such as “kunde”, “mchicha”, amaranth, millet, pumpkins, green grams etc by drying them to ensure their availability during the dry season.  The women have also expanded their business to include drying of mangoes, a seasonal fruit available in Makueni County. The dried mangoes are sold in 12 supermarkets across the country and also packaged for export through a trader they met during the Nairobi International Trade Fair in 2015. In February 2016, the women also participated in the International Trade Fair that seeks to link farmers with exporters.
The Huruma Women Group dries their mangoes using solar driers making weather information very crucial. To attain the required results, the mangoes are dried on sunny days “Weather forecast is very important in drying our mangoes, when there is insufficient sunlight, there is humidity in the drier, preventing the air from circulating properly hence leading to discoloration of the mangoes,” says Rehema Rashid, a member of the Huruma Women Group. “The sugar levels also rise above unacceptable levels,” she adds. In drying the mangoes, the women ensure that the moisture content is suitable and the mangoes are ripe before harvesting.

The need to narrow down weather information to specific wards in Makueni was also noted by the women. They noted that using general weather information for the entire county was a challenge. To address the challenge, the women have started using their smart phones to get more weather information from other agencies and use it in tandem with weather information from Kenya Meteorological Department. This has been made easy by the Climate Information Service training they got on interpreting weather information. In addition, the Kenya Meteorological Department has started the process of providing weather information specific to each ward in Makueni with Makindu (a ward in Makueni) already receiving the down scaled weather information.

The downscaled information is transmitted through advisories, short text messages and radio stations that broadcast in local languages. Farmers call in to get advice on the kind of season they are getting into, the amount of rainfall expected and the type of crops and seeds to plant. In the advisories, they are advised to plant varieties of drought resistant crops like green grams, sorghum and “kunde” when the season is short.  Some farmers are yet to adhere to the disseminated weather information and continue to grow maize – a staple crop in Kenya -, which hasn’t been performing well due to climate variability.
When the season ends, Kenya Meteorological Department, Agriculture sector development support programme (ASDSP) and National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) undertake an evaluation of the forecasts concentrating on how the weather information was used and whether the predicated forecast was what was received. “We are currently at 85% correct on the information we disseminate, ” says David Mutua, County Director of Meteorological Services – Makueni. “The messages are useful and farmers are finding them relevant,” he adds.


   

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