Software developed by four Kenyan university students to help farmers monitor weather and soil conditions has won a US prize
Known as the Mkulima Calculator (M-Cal), the software recently won the students a US$7,000 prize from the US State Department Software Competition. The M-Calc uses a mobile phone platform to send information on weather patterns, soil types and other information to farmers to help them make informed decisions on what and when to plant.
Using information from reliable databases like the United Nations and farm oriented government agencies, the M-Calc is also a farmer’s resource base for farming methods and other information necessary to improve yields. In order to benefit from this service, farmers need to register the geographic location of their farm online. They then have to activate the service on their mobile phones in order to receive updates and requests.
The programme uses artificial intelligence, meaning farmers can estimate yields per hectare by sending rainfall figures, soil type and the size of the farm to a special number.
“Apart from benefiting the individual farmer, M-Calc is also expected to aid in environmental conservation since it nurtures informed and sustained farming methods”, said 23-year-old Abdalah Salumu, a Bachelor of Business Information Technology student at Strathmore University in Nairobi. Salumu developed the software alongside Elisha Bwatuti, Harris Dindi and Andrew Abuoga.
Predicting weather patterns is a major issue for African farmers struggling to cope with climate change and the resulting losses brought about by failing crops.