East Africans are now using an early warning tool powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to help farmers fight off locusts that have devastated crops and communities across the past year.
The new tool from Selina Wamucii, a platform that connects farmers and markets across Africa, is called Kuzi, the Swahili name for the wattled starling, a bird that eats locusts. The free tool relies on satellite data, sensors that monitor soil moisture and local weather data to deliver predictions on where locusts are migrating and breeding.
The farmers and pastoral communities that use Kuzi get up to three months advance warning of any likely locust swarm arrivals, delivered via SMS in the regional languages of Kiswahili, Somali and Amharic. They use a real-time heatmap generated by Kuzi to minimize the damage caused by the formidable locusts.
“Alerts are currently available for Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda,” the company said in its announcement. There are plans to roll out the Kuzi option for all of Africa.
John Oroko, CEO of the Nairobi-based Selina Wamucii, said the 2020 locust outbreak in East Africa has been the worst in 70 years and the product offers a better way to move forward. That’s especially true as the region struggles with COVID-19 and other challenges that add to the food insecurity of locust-affected communities.
“We have a responsibility to develop and deploy locally bred solutions that address these challenges faced by our vulnerable rural communities,” Oroko said.
Farmers can sign up at this link for the free SMS alert with any mobile device, with or without an internet connection, identify the GPS location of their farm, and then launch the service.