Lack of reliable weather information in most parts of Africa is making many households lose from agriculture, experts say. The Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO) project was started in 2012 with an ambitious plan of establishing 20,000 weather stations across Africa to help farmers in particular.
TAHMO stations are typically installed at local schools, where they can be used for educational purposes. The innovation, known as ATMOS 41, is an all-in-one weather station that fulfils all weather measuring needs such as air temperature, relative humidity, vapour pressure, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, precipitation and lightning.
Data generated by TAHMO stations is sent to an internet platform to aid accessibility and analyses to guide farmers. TAHMO explains that while most all-in-one weather stations provide the option to measure either solar radiation or precipitation, ATMOS 41 provides both measurements in one device.
Weather patterns largely determine agricultural performance. More accurate weather information would allow smallholder farmers to make better resource management decisions. Weather information also gives farmers access to services such as crop insurance.
“Providing a reliable source of weather information gives farmers some degree of certainty in weather measurement,” said Nick van de Giesen, a director of the project and a professor of the Netherlands-based Delft University of Technology, in a recent interview with SciDev.Net.
“In Africa, weather influences how households decide to farm and the amount of household income coming from crop sales. When rains fail or are prolonged, livelihoods are lost,” van de Giesen explains.
According to van de Giesen, the project was developed because of the “nearly complete lack of systematic climate observations on the African continent” which hinders scientific and economic development.
He adds that the project has been able to establish 105 stations in 17 African countries including Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda to help farmers.
John Selker, a professor of biological and ecological engineering at the US-based Oregon State University and co-director of the project, was quoted in a TAHMO press release in March saying that there is a decline in climate observation in Africa due to absence of equipment for real-time reporting and weather monitoring, as these issues are not top priorities. “However“, he adds, “in Africa the opportunity to improve yields is phenomenal.”