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[PORT LOUIS] Mauritius has launched an agricultural decision support system (ADSS) to collect and disseminate timely and accurate information on weather and climate change.
The ADSS will relay information about temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction and solar radiation to farmers, university students and researchers.
With the system, data collected by seven automated agro-meteorological stations installed at strategic locations throughout the country are made accessible to users throughfarei.mu/meteo — an online portal.
“It is timely to introduce the ADSS to help save our crops from climate change and improve production to feed the growing population.”
Initiated by the Government of Mauritius and launched last month (10 December), the about US$142,000ADSSproject is funded by the Government of Japan under its Cool Earth Partnership Programme for Africa in the context of the Africa Adaptation Programme, according to Indoomatee Ramma, a principal research scientist at the Food and Agricultural Research Extension Institute (FAREI) in Mauritius, which helped develop the tool.
Ramma tellsSciDev.Net that data obtained from the ADSS will help farmers take the right decisions on their farm operations, optimal water and fertiliser use, management of pests and diseases and improve crop productivity while reducing vulnerability to climate change.
“It will also help them to better adapt to variability in climate change through appropriate and timely decision-making regarding field operations such as timing of seeding, fertiliser applications, irrigation scheduling and application of crop protectants,” Ramma notes.
At FAREI, the data obtained from the ADSS are also used for developing an early warning system for plant diseases to strengthen the existing SMS (short messaging service) crop disease alert system provided to farmers, according to Ramma.
“This tool should be used by the farmers.”Ramma adds. “They can derive a lot of benefits from it. If not, it will stay dormant.”
For the farmers, the ADSS is a good initiative to help mitigate the effects of climate change on agricultural production in Mauritius.
One farmer, Jairam Ramjee, says he needs the right information about climatic conditions at the right time to be able to produce a good crop: “For instance, right now, it is raining a lot in my region, and it’s followed by a high temperature that is damaging my crops.”
Another farmer, Amarjeet Beegoo, wants information about rainfall and humidity in his region. “High humidity damages the crops, favours the outbreak of diseases and [negatively] affects the yield. It is timely to introduce the ADSS to help save our crops from climate change and improve production to feed the growing population,” Beegoo says.
Climate change has a negative impact on the island's food security, says Sen Dabydoyal, president of Mauritius-based Medine Camp de Masque Cooperative Credit Society, which is made up of a group of sugarcane farmers.
“Our food imports bill has already reached US$1 billion annually in foreign exchange, which is too much for our small economy,” Dabydoyal adds, saying that the ADSS can help keep the island's food imports low.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.