Technology 3 min read

Smartphone App Helps African Farmers Adapt to Climate Change

Researchers developed an AI-powered smartphone app that can predict climate change patterns and help African farmers farm efficiently.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Researchers have unveiled a smartphone app that will help farmers in Africa practice climate-smart agriculture.

Effects of climate change are evident across all areas of life, including agriculture. Since the hundreds of millions of African farmers are ill-equipped to handle the unpredictable weather pattern, they’ve suffered several losses.

For example, Mozambique recently suffered two of the most active cyclones ever recorded in East Africa. Not only did it destroy 80 percent of the staple crops in the region, but the damage to property was worth nearly $1 billion.

Furthermore, the cyclones changed the rainfall patterns across East Africa, making it difficult to predict when to plant or irrigate.

About 95 percent of African farmers depend on rainfall to irrigate their crops. But, only a few of these farmers can deal with the increasing drought conditions in the region.

Well, a team of researchers has developed a smartphone app that could change that. Along with predicting the short-term productivity of their crops, the app could help the farmers protect their staple crops in the face of climate warming.

An existing AI assistant, PlantVillage Nuru, will power the smartphone app.

A Smartphone App Powered By PlantVillage Nuru

Currently, PlantVillage Nuru is used across Africa as an AI assistant for diagnosing crop diseases. And it’s quite good at it too.

According to several tests of performance, the AI proved to be twice as good as human experts at making accurate diagnoses. As a result, farmers using PlantVillage Nuru can quickly discover problems in their farms.

Now researchers have extended the AI tool’s function by granting it access to various datasets, which include:

  • The United Nations’ WaPOR (Water Productivity through Open access of Remotely sensed derived data) portal
  • Weather forecast data
  • A Soil dataset for Africa
  • The United Nations Crop Calendar

Using these datasets, PlantVillage Nuru can now compute relevant metrics for crop productivity based on the available water in a specific region. The AI tool can also suggest adaptive measures for farmers to take under certain conditions.

Besides, the AI assistant can integrate with various data streams to provide valuable information and advice to farmers. These include information on affordable irrigation methods, flood mitigation, climate-resilient crop varieties, among other best practices.

At the moment, the AI tool exists as a smartphone app. But, users can also access it through a webpage and via SMS in Kenya.

The researchers, however, hope to extend the service to all of Africa and potentially help millions of farmers prepare for climate change.

In a statement, associate professor of entomology and biology at Penn State College of Agricultural Science, David Hughes said:

“Our AI tool is in the early stages, but it will get better over time and with more training. We are releasing it now so we can kick-start the necessary collaboration we need to help African farmers adapt to climate change.

Read More: New Artificial Intelligence Technique to Forecast Volcanic Eruptions

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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