Kenya: Give Us More Accurate Forecasts, Murang'a Farmers Tell Met Department

Small-scale farmers in Murang'a have appealed to the meteorological department to set up an efficient forecasting system that will give them accurate weather information.

Like the rest of the Central highlands, rain-fed farming is dominant in the region due to the nature of the land and farmers sow seeds based on the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) forecasts.

Unfortunately, many have suffered losses due to inaccurate weather predictions, which also come too late and do not reveal the proper distribution of the rain.

This has resulted in lost agribusiness investments, reduced profitability and the net effect is poverty and food insecurity.

Murang'a Small-Scale Horticulture Producers Association coordinator, Peter Mburu, told the Nation that the Met reports should be a powerful planning tool for farmers to make wise decisions on what to plant and inputs to budget for.

"When the department releases data indicating anticipation of long rains and we end up having them short or vice versa, or sometimes we experience nothing to compare, the repercussions are major. That's why, at all times, the margin of error for the forecasts should be as low as possible," said Mr Mburu.

But the principal meteorologist in charge of forecasts, David Koros, said the complaint is as a result of uninformed consumption of the department's data.

Consumed differently

He said there are varying forecasts that should be consumed differently.

"We have several forecasts...daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal... the shorter the forecast the higher the accuracy... Put it at 80 per cent," he said.

Mr Koros said the percentage applies to data issued by Nairobi, leaving a gap of 20 per cent inaccuracy. "But we have county-based meteorological departments that can fill in the gap by offering specific forecast for their needs," he said.

The agricultural sector accounts for about 26 per cent of the GDP and played a key role in the country's 6.3 per cent economic growth last year, according to official data.

On February 19, the department tweeted that "enhanced rainfall is expected over the highlands of Rift Valley as well as in the Lake Victoria basin", and also predicted "seven-day rains in the Central region", which has not happened.

Mr Mburu said rain-fed agriculture for farmers is the most rewarding given that the expenses are low. This means that even if the market prices are low for the produce, the economies of scale still bill it as profitable.

"As opposed to irrigation agribusiness, rain-fed market prices drop by half but husbandry expenditures drop by 70 percent hence retaining a 20 percentage in profits; reason why the meteorological department should treat their data as a matter of life and death for many of our farmers," he said.

Mr Koros said the department has the ability and capacity to provide accurate rain forecast even to an individual farmer for his/her own land upon request.

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