Most countries rely on Agriculture as a source of revenue. Kenya being one of the countries, little has been implemented to grow the sector. Farmers in rural areas always find it hard to adopt to climate change. In the spirit of digital revolution, a new online tool has been developed to benefit farmers since it offers advice on services such as irrigation and fertilizer use.
The internet portal dubbed Smart Irrigator computes all the water requirements a plant needs. Majorly, the technology will help many farmers given that the tool will increase efficiency of irrigation systems.
“It calculates water demands at different periods of the crop season,” Okoth told SciDev.Net, “the tool considers factors such as rooting depth and the maximum allowable loss of water.”
Peter Akoth, a consultant in research and Agronomy provides that farmers need to register names, location, soil texture, date of planting in the portal while also selecting crop of choice for irrigation water advice. “The information is sent to the subscribed farmers’ phone in text form and the farmer pays a monthly fee of US$5-10 to obtain the data and information.”
In addition, Smart Irrigator helps compute selected crops’ fertilizer needs during growth stages and relays these to the farmer, including information on pests and diseases associated with growth stages. Using the technology, researchers are to communicate with farmers easily since research information recorded in books will be directed to farmers practically. “Through the messages and implementing the recommendations, farmers are able to double or treble their crop yields.” Akoth explained.
The tool will helpful to farmers living in areas facing erratic rainfall. The tech can also be used by anybody as it provides agronomic and fertiliser recommendations for about 30 crops, including maize, beans, tomatoes and water melons.
Currently, pilot projects are being carried out in Machakos and Kajiado to help farmers fight drought. The involved farmers are funded by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations (IAEA).
Smart Irrigator is a product of discussion between, the then Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and Akoth. The Discussions started in 2012, with a contract of US$100,000 from the IAEA signed in 2014. It took eight months to develop the tool. Mr Akoth explained.
He further provided that, the tool can be used by most people “but the older generation who are not technology savvy might be left out for the time being”. However, according to William Ndegwa, Kitui County director at the Kenya Meteorological Department, the tool is novel.
“Lack of information on crop types and varieties, and their respective soil fertility requirements, and how to integrate with different agronomic needs for farmers has always been a major impediment to agricultural productivity in Africa,” Ndegwa explains.
“Given that the system enables a farmer to receive information on [the] phone through SMS [short message service] or online,” Ndegwa adds, “it offers major savings on extension costs among public and private sectors.”
Ndegwa notes that the technology assumes income and profits are the only functions of productivity. “Other parameters of input and output markets have not been considered,” he notes, citing the need for rainfed farmers to require location-specific climate information and advice on post-harvest issues.