For Margaret Wambui, a young maize and beans farmer from Njoro, technology is a godsend. She has increased her beans production from four bags to eight thanks to a mobile-based innovation, the Kenya Agricultural Observation Platform (KAOP).
The app, developed by the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), is revolutionising agriculture by giving farmers an up to date weather information, enabling them to make informed decision in their farming activities.
Ms Wambui who learnt of the app from a Nakuru farmers WhatsApp group, says since she downloaded it in 2019, she has been able to make right decisions basing on the tool’s accurate advisories on weather pattern.
“The tool has helped me in avoiding unnecessary costs like on routine management practices, which I can now do at the right time unlike before,” she says.
The innovation has come in handy in the face of increasing effects of climate change. Many farmers have fallen victims to the vagaries of weather, losing their crop to harsh and unpredictable climate conditions. But now KAOP gives farmers accurate information on weather and guide them through the crop cycle.
The app has integrated a digital platform that uses geo-data from satellites to generate real-time and location-specific agro-advisories to farmers enabling them to make more informed decisions.
The app has an SMS advisory system with the ability to send numerous agronomic advisories to farmers on things like crop varieties, soil preparation, sowing rate and time, irrigation, fertilisation, pest and diseases control, harvest time, and storage options based on weather forecasts.
Kalro ICT specialist Irene Kimani says the KAOP app, which can be downloaded from playstore, is able to predict precipitation and temperature as well as plot dynamic charts for given GPS coordinates of any location in the country for seven days, 14 days and 30 days
“KAOP guides farmers when to plant based on the seven, 14 or 30 days forecast. It enables them on when to use pesticides and other chemicals and gives a proper guidance on when to conduct harvesting of various crops,” said Ms Kimani.
“It is available 24/7 and one can check from any position or location by just getting the exact forecast they need for the particular area in real time.”
The new technology has come handy, especially for the young people who are more ready and eager to master new technologies and apply them to increase productivity and solve the underlying weather challenges.
Since the launch of the app last year, over 5,000 downloads have been made by different users who use them anywhere unlike previously when they would rely on radios for weather info.
“The idea of just listening to radio on what the weatherman predicted was limiting me as I had to be at one place but now with this smartphone that is user-friendly and only requires a little data bundle, I can access information anywhere anytime,” says Ms Wairimu.
Bernard Shanzu another farmer from Rumwe, Njoro says the challenges he had been experiencing previously on weather are no more since he started using the KAOP application.
“Previous predictions on when to plant and also harvest has had a negative impact on our farming business because we did not have accurate information,” says Mr Shanzu.
“Sometimes we could look at clouds and start planting only to realise that the rains were not coming and that the clouds were just passing.”