Smallholder farmers and seed companies are now able to predict weather conditions for up to eight days, informing their planting seasons, thanks to an online tool that sends them climate alerts.
The weather management tool known as awhere weather was first developed in US by John Corbett but has been localized to suit farmers and seed companies’ needs in Africa and Asia.
It can predict possible temperatures while keeping records of historical weather patterns assisting farmers to plan in advance when to plant and harvest.
It has also come in handy for seed companies and research institutions by helping them with their seed variety trials. Specifically it helps the seed companies to do weather risk assessment throughout the year.
The tool additionally assist farmers in knowing when is the best time and place to plant and when is the ideal period of the year to get maximum yield for what crop.
“This tool is key to any farmer especially during these times when we are not only taking about rains failing but also what happens when rains fall when they are not expected to fall.
It can tell with accuracy when the rains will start and when they will stop,” said Dr. Kayode Sanni a rice scientist at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation which is using the tool.
The tool collects weather details from meteorological stations globally and interpolates them into 9 km grid cells, meaning having climate data for every 9km radius.
Interested farmers need to have a computer with internet connection or an internet enabled phone from which they sign up to receive updates and from where they can be keying in their location and the type of crop they would want to grow.
Already seed companies like, the Kenya Seed Company, FreshCo Kenya, Afritec and East Africa Seeds among others are regular users of the tool.
The tool comes at a time when changing weather patterns especially failed rains have taken a toll on smallholder farmers in Kenya.
Little wonder that the company behind the tool has set up a weather station in Kenya aware of the impact changes in weather has had on crop production.
Kenya is among countries in Sub Saharan Africa where scientists have identified climate change will have the most severe impact on crop production.
For example studies have shown that this will lead to a 50 per cent dip in maize production, the most important crop in Kenya with the country consuming 3.72 million bags of maize every month according to the National Cereals and Produce Board.
But failed rains have also altered prime food production areas with zones like Central Kenya, North Rift and Western Kenya moving from food baskets to basket cases.
But more alarming is the emergence of new pests and diseases which are looking for warmer habitation and which are affecting produce they traditionally never used to.