[KAMPALA] Ugandan cattle farmers are set to benefit from the use of information and communications technology (ICT) tools and meteorological data to improve their ability to adapt to climate change-induced hazards such as water stress and prolonged droughts.
Climate Change Adaptation and ICT (CHAI), a two-year project launched in Kampala earlier this month (3 August), will generate agricultural, environmental management, market and meteorological information for herdsmen in Uganda's 'cattle corridor'.
The corridor — a broad dryland area covering 84,000 square kilometres from southwest to northeast Uganda, and home to 12 million people and about 60 per cent of the country's seven million cattle — is one of the African areas hardest hit by climate change.
"When there is a crisis like a prolonged drought, herdsmen sell their animals as a coping strategy. We will provide them with information to cope and make choices," said Berhane Gebru, director of programmes at the US-based FHI360-Satellife, a non-profit development organisation helping to implement the project.
The US$600,000 project, funded by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), will provide users with ICT tools to collect and disseminate information. The data generated will be reliable, timely, accurate and appropriate for planning on water-related climate risks and adaptation options.
"We believe that climate proofing, adaptation and the promotion of mitigation actions are areas where ICT is critical. This [programme] will contribute to the government's climate change knowledge base," said Chebet Maikut of the Climate Change Unit (CCU) in Uganda's ministry of water and environment.
The project will also build more weather stations, and establish or strengthen data collection for local weather and water.
Seasonal forecasting information and early warnings of severe weather events will also be disseminated in local languages, through media such as text messages, voice messaging and radio.
"One of [the] mandates is to build local capacity and evidence-based data to support both policy and practice," said Edith Adera, an IDRC senior programme specialist in climate change and water.
"We will present research-based evidence on cattle-keeping communities' use of ICT for climate-induced water challenges — evidence that will later inform policy and [ICT] designs," explained Gebru.
Daniel Ninsiima, research assistant at the Makerere University Agriculture Research Institute, said ICT use will empower pastoralists with diverse adaptation methods.
"However, this information should be tailored to farmers' local needs and dialects," he added. "Disseminating this information in local languages by way of voice messaging instead of SMS is the most effective way of getting much-needed information into the hands of farmers."