New digital tool being built to help farmers do better forecasts

New digital tool being built to help farmers do better forecasts
Dr Isaac Shinyenkwa the lead researcher chats with NAAC Boss with whom they are collaborating on the study.

Kampala, Uganda | URN | A team of researchers have embarked on a new study in which they will develop a digital tool to help farmers conduct forecasts to enable them make informed decisions on when to plant and make other decisions on the farm.

The researchers who are led by scientists at the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC) say they plan to develop a tool that uses USSD codes and can be used by both smart and feature phone users to seek information or offer alerts on what’s happening in the community and get swift feedback.

According to Dr. Isaac Shinyekwa, a Senior Research Fellow at EPRC, while Ugandan farmers have potential of producing enough food that would shrink the 16.4 million Ugandans who are currently estimated to be facing insufficient food consumption, they are sometimes affected by vagaries of weather which would otherwise have been avoided if they are armed with correct and reliable information.

Now, with the new digital tool, Dr. Shinyekwa says all farmers need is a phone to get key information and adds that they do not need internet connection since they are relying on satellite information. Initially, he says they are testing the tool on selected farmers across the country to capture feedback and assess usability.

Before doing this, he says the plan is to do a survey on which crops thrive well in which parts of the country starting with maize and cassava. They will also use existing data in the Uganda Bureau of Statistics to estimate nutritional security rates.

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On his part, Ambrose Asingizibwe, the Executive Director of the National Alliance of Agriculture Cooperatives that is going to train farmers on using the mobile tool says this initiative comes in handy with concerns by farmers that many times, forecasts provided by the Uganda National Meteorological Authority have had them take misleading decisions.

Commenting about the innovation, Morris Kabyanga the official in charge of food production thematic area in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) urged the researchers to make creating awareness an integral part of the study noting that similar innovations that have been done previously failed simply because farmers couldn’t use them even as messages were sent to them.

This study to develop new digital tool to help farmers is being funded by the German Development Agency (GIZ) at the cost of 40,000 euros.