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New app helps farmers know the best time to plant

Lizzy Nyakundi takes pictures of Black Night Shade vegetable (Sagaa) at her Nyansira farm in Kisii County on 27/2/2021. [Sammy Omingo,Standard]

Imagine being able to predict the rainfall amounts and temperature in the next 14 days and plan ahead. That is a reality for farmers who are using an app to plan their farming activities.

The app dubbed the Kenya Agriculture Observatory Platform (KAOP) was developed by Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) in 2020.

With the ravaging effects of climate change, scientists from Kalro felt the need to develop a satellite-based platform that farmers can use to inform them of when to carry out various activities on their farms.

About the app

Irene Kimani, an Information and Communication Technology specialist from Kalro says the KAOP App which can be downloaded from Playstore gives farmers a weather forecast for seven days, and can be accustomed to search for the weather forecast for 14 and 30 days.

Based on these forecasts Kimani notes that the KAOP App advises farmers on when to prepare the land, plant, apply pesticides and harvest their various crops in the fields.

“Since the launch of KAOP in 2020, We have over 5,000 downloads. KAOP is one of our leading applications. The data is real-time. Once a farmer registers on KAOP, s/he can be able to make queries and received customised advisory services,” Kimani says.

Additionally, KAOP has a location based feature meaning that you do not need to be on your farm but can enter details of your county, sub-county and ward where the farm is and get a detailed forecast with temperature and rainfall amounts.

When to plant

The Nakuru county government has already introduced this platform to farmers.

Kibet Maina, the Chief Officer in Agriculture, notes that the county does rain-fed agriculture and farmers do not practice irrigation. Thus this App comes at an opportune time to rescue farmers from errors they have been committing in the past by undertaking management practices in their farm without knowing how the weather shall be in the near or far future.

“By embracing this technology, we have been able to bring youths on board,” says Maina.

 Stephen Muriithi, an extension officer in Nakuru County says they had a difficult time advising farmers when to plant their crops but with the introduction of KAOP App, they can eliminate guesswork and give farmers accurate information that guarantees good yields.

The App is expected to be a very popular tool since it is giving farmers a basis for making decisions. The tool will be popularised to all extension staff and farmers all over the county.

The Smart Harvest spoke to farmers who have embraced this technology in Nakuru County.

Margaret Wambui, a maize and beans farmer with a Diploma in General Agriculture, says since she started farming in 2019 she has encountered the challenge of getting accurate information for productive agriculture.

She started using KAOP since it was shared on Nakuru Farmers WhatsApp Group by Nakuru County Chief Executive Committee Member for Agriculture, Dr Immaculate Maina.

“Some of the information I get from the App are rainfall and temperature amount and when to expect it. I can tell when to plant my maize and beans, apply pesticides and harvest my crops. In the past. I used to get the weather forecasts from the radio which was not very reliable. Now I can get a forecast at the touch of a button,” Wambui says.

She advices youths with smartphones to download the KAOP App and be updating their parents with the weather forecasts.

Next to Wambui’s maize farm is Benard Chanzu’s wheat and barley farm. Chanzu is an alumni of Daystar University who loves agriculture. He says the challenge with farming in Njoro Subcounty is the weather.

Increased yields

He came across the App at Wambui’s Agro vet and he uses it during planting, management and at harvesting of his cereal crops.

Collins Kipchumba, a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education and Extension from Egerton University, farms maize and beans. He uses the KAOP App and his bean yields have increased from four bags to ten bags per acre.

The launch of the platform followed a World Bank and Kenya Government support to Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture (KCSAP) project under the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock Fisheries & Irrigation.

The observatory platform is the 1st of its kind in Africa. Kalro and Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) are responsible for piloting and implementing the KCSAP to support agro-weather, market, climate and advisory services.

Kenya’s agricultural sector performance has been highly volatile with growth rates dipping into negative, and to address these challenges, there is need to derive agricultural intelligence and insights from predictive data analytics to support decision making agriculture.

Trends

With the integration of digital technologies into the agriculture space, farming is now becoming predictable and attractive to youth.


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