Invest in weather communication

What you need to know:

The issue: Weather communication.

Our view:  As we preach climate change adaptation, we need to equip farmers with tools, including timely and reliable weather forecasts and alerts, so that they can plan ahead.

Following the dry spell that started sometime in December last year, some anxious farmers got carried away by the rains being experienced currently across the country.

It is reported that farmers started purchasing planting materials and prepared their land for planting.

But the excitement has been cut short after the Uganda National Metrological Authority (UNMA) this week warned against farming just yet, saying the current rainfall is expected to gradually reduce over most parts of the country in about a week and later on dry conditions are expected to resume.

The anxiety by the farmers is understandable, the weather patterns have over time become unpredictable with shorter or longer rains and harsher droughts as a result of climate change.

Agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, but sadly millions of people depend on rainfall to grow their food and cash crops. This leaves them at the mercy of unreliable weather patterns. Prolonged drought leaves them counting losses.

Therefore, as we preach climate change adaptation, we need to equip farmers with tools, including timely and reliable weather forecasts and alerts, so that they can adjust to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects.

UNMA, formerly the Department of Meteorology under the Ministry of Water and Environment, should be credited for providing periodic advisories to farmers. But there is room for improvement in their communication.

Whereas there is some engagement on their social media platforms, the communication needs to be consistent. On their website, for example, under the daily forecasts, the last update is a two-minute video clip uploaded on November 30, 2021.

The advisory from UNMA’s acting executive director, Mr David Elweru, this week is welcome, but farmers do not have to wait for updates from the weatherman the way Ugandans will wait by their radios for a presidential address in anticipation of whether the economy will be reopened or not.

In order for the ordinary farmer to adapt to the fast-changing weather patterns, government should ensure that they readily have the latest weather forecasts, disaster warnings and alerts.

The UNMA website and social media platforms are a good place to start with for farmers with access to the internet. Updates on these platforms need to be consistent so that farmers make informed decisions on what to plant and when.

For the ordinary farmer, there should be regular updates across the hundreds of local FM stations scattered across the country.

This should not be left as an initiative for a few elite stations, because information and communication needs of those most affected by climate change should be a priority in the climate change response.

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