Solar Powered Weather Stations in Kenya Bring Relief to Drought-Stricken Farmers
October 17, 2011 | Andrew Burger
Kenya’s predominantly smallholder farmers are turning to government built solar powered weather stations that serve as “early warning systems” to help them to more effectively adapt to changing weather and climate conditions.
The clean and green solar-powered weather stations are proving to be both affordable and reliable tools that capture weather and climate data in remote rural areas. The data is used by crop insurance providers to calculate compensation payments to farmers for losses from failed rains or too much precipitation, according to a Reuters AlertNet report.
Each of the solar powered weather stations is equipped with a GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) that records data on farms within a 20-kilometer (~12.4-mile) radius every 15 minutes, according to Kenya’s Centre for Training and Integrated Research in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands Development (CETRAD).
Kenya’s Meteorological Department (KMD) “is expecting frequent and extreme climate shocks,” wrote AlertNet’s David Njagi, especially in the arid and semi-arid lands that make up 80% of the country.
At 24% in 2005, agriculture, including forestry and fishing, is the largest contributor to Kenya’s economy and accounted for 18% of wage-earning employment. That’s despite the fact that less than 8% of Kenya’s land is used for crop and feed production and only 15%-17% of its total land area is sufficiently fertile and receives enough rainfall to be farmed.
Though it’s too soon to determine if recent droughts and extreme weather are linked to longer term climate change, the East Africa region has experienced droughts more frequently since 2005. The latest one began late last year, and the one before that occurred in 2008-2009, which didn’t give the land, or farmers and ranchers, enough time to revitalize soils and crops.