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KALRO to create an observatory platform to help farmers get information on weather, market, climate

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. In the highlands of Western Kenya, the impact of climate change is exacerbated by the proximity of Lake Victoria. Photo courtesy.

The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has partnered with the World Bank to create an agricultural observatory platform that will enable institutions access agro-meteorological data to enable farmers access farming information in a more advanced method as opposed to relying on traditional ways of obtaining information.

The information on weather, market, climate and advisory markets is expected to not only help farmers on their production and marketing but also help policy makers optimize their decisions.

It will be a pilot platform worth 100 million U.S. dollars.

KALRO Director General Eliud Kireger said 35 staff members are currently undergoing training on predictive, analytics and integration into agriculture.

Erratic rainfall, diseases, floods, conflict, animal theft, drought and price volatility are threats to Kenya’s agriculture and livestock sectors, Kireger said.

“The pilot will help support decision-making in agriculture since the sector has been volatile with growth rates dipping into negative,” said Kireger.

He noted that with the adverse climatic conditions that affect agriculture, there is need to derive intelligence and insights from predictive data analytics

Unpredictable weather patterns coupled with challenges in accessing accurate and timely data that farmers can use has resulted to low agricultural productivity in recent years.

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The system which will be up and running by end month will offer data on rains, temperature, wind and speed.

The information will be availed to policy makers to be able to advise farmers through the Agricultural extension systems on even the variety of maize they need to plant depending on data.

According to Ladisy Chengula, the World Bank’s lead agricultural economist, the platform will help relay information on when drought and flooding is likely to occur in the country.

“The information will then be availed to scientists and policy-makers to help save farmers from making losses,” Chengula said during the launch of the platform in Nairobi.

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The Agricultural Observatory Platform will also be able to aggregate field and farm level data into information that provides insight in addressing the challenge of where it rained, where crops failed and how many people were impacted.

After Kenya, Chengula said, the platform will be launched in Ethiopia and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) countries respectively.

“The platform will help improve farmers, agro-pastoralists, pastoralists and fish-farmers access to timely and appropriate information for increasing agricultural productivity and building resilience to climate change risks,” Chengula said.

According to Kireger, agricultural sector has faced challenges such as lack of accurate, timely and reliable weather data, its integration to agricultural research data and interpretation to support effective decision-making.

“The platform will aggregate field and farm level data into mapping information that provide insight in addressing where it rained, where crops failed and how many people were impacted,” said Kireger.

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KALRO Information, Communication and Technology Manager Boniface Akuku said the platform will be powered by new technology.

He said that KALRO is investing heavily on ICT, big data and mobile applications to enable farmers receive information quickly and with ease.

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