CUT Professor develops APP that may bring a solution to draught challenges in Africa
ITIKI Team celebrating five years of success. From left is Jason Brown, Administrator and App Developer; Prof. Muthoni Masinde, Associate Professor and Head of Department of Information Technology, CEO and Founder of ITIKI project and Adeyinka Akanbi, Lecturer, IT and Operations Manager of the project.
Drought remains the number one disaster in Africa, and of all the people affected by all types of disasters, drought is responsible for over 88% of them. As a threatening natural hazard, drought may cause tremendous loss to agriculture, ecosystems, and other sectors. In ancient times, small scale farmers used to rely highly on indigenous knowledge to predict the occurrence of rainfall and critical cropping decisions, but this knowledge seems to be disappearing due to climate change.
Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) Professor, Muthoni Masinde, who is an Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Information Technology at the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology (FEBIT) says that growing up in Kenya and inspired by her own experience, was why she came up with a draught predicting tool. The tool bridges the gap between indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge. This drought predicting tool for Africa’s small-scale farmers and flagship project called Information Technology and Indigenous Knowledge with Intelligence (ITIKI) was officially launched on 20-21 June 2019.
The drought early warning system forecasting tool integrates indigenous and scientific drought forecasting and uses a mobile application, a web portal, and SMS service to pull weather information through a network of sensors that monitor weather conditions for farmers. The system is anchored on the novel integration framework called ITIKI and forecasts are available via the ITIKI Smartphone App and USSD service.
Prof. Masinde said that the tool is a unique innovation that will help farmers deal and adapt to changing climate. “The weather and planting information is distributed to the farmers through text messages in their home languages and can be received on simple and low-cost mobile phones. We have achieved significant progress thus far, and we want to do what we can to support Africa and overcome our challenges. The tool has effectively been implemented in Mozambique, Kenya and South Africa, and we are looking to expand into other African countries.”
Farmers during training on how to access the app on their tablets.
Indigenous knowledge ensures that the system is relevant, acceptable and resilient. ITIKI further employs three Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools like mobile phones, wireless sensor networks, and artificial intelligence to enhance the system’s effectiveness, affordability, sustainability, and intelligence.
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