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Local Communities to Get User-Friendly Weather Forecast Information :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Local Communities to Get User-Friendly Weather Forecast Information

Julius Kiprop, the Acting Executive Director of UNMA who also doubles as manager of network operations, says they are well aware that people in many areas would want such information but don’t get it.
03 Jun 2023 13:22
A man carrying his shoes and mattress crosses a flooded area at Clock Tower to enter town

Audio 7

A sudden change in weather from sunny to windy in Kawempe division Friday left market vendors surprised and concerned. At Bwaise market, one woman pointed at the clouds and predicted rain, causing her colleagues to panic about protecting their merchandise from getting wet.

As the scene played out and the argument on whether it will rain or not went on, Fred Kasumba, a local chicken roaster at the market, pointed out to our reporter how weather plays a significant role in their work. Kasumba noted that each weather element affects their business differently, both positively and negatively but unfortunately, they never get weather information. 

Lamenting the lack of access to weather forecasts, he expressed the need for such information to better prepare for weather changes.

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In an effort to be prepared, the roaster carries a rain jacket with him, although he sometimes forgets it at home, resulting in the rain negatively impacting his business. He emphasized the importance of understanding the effects of weather, particularly rainfall, on local businesses. 

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Although the local population in Kawempe remains largely uninformed about weather forecasts, the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UMNA) consistently generates weather information, offering forecasts ranging from short-term intervals of six hours to longer periods encompassing weeks and even entire seasons.

Earlier this week, UMNA released a weather outlook for the months of June and July. However, many individuals in Kawempe are unaware of the existence of such an organization that provides weather forecasts. Some even expressed skepticism regarding the source of this information and questioned its accuracy.

Julius Kiprop, the Acting Executive Director of UNMA who also doubles as manager of network operations, says they are well aware that people in many areas would want such information but don’t get it. 

Kiprop blames this to lacks the necessary funds to ensure widespread dissemination of this weather forecast and as a result, the public is deprived of timely access to weather forecasts, leaving them unprepared for sudden weather changes and potentially affecting various aspects of their lives.

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In response to the lack of accessible weather forecasts for local communities, Resurgence, a global social enterprise that supports urban climate risk reduction and resilience, has launched a project dubbed DARAJA that aims to provide weather forecasts specifically tailored for vulnerable communities residing in formal settlements across six cities in East and Horn of Africa. Daraja is a Swahili word for bridge.

Mark Harvey, the Chief Executive Office at Resurgence acknowledges that the project, backed by the Regional Climate Centre for the World Meteorological Organization and national meteorological organizations, recognizes the importance of early warnings in reducing the negative effects of severe weather events on communities.

Harvey adds that by providing accurate and timely weather forecasts, they aim to enhance preparedness, resilience, and overall safety among vulnerable populations.

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The program, which has been operational in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-el-Salaam, Tanzania, for several years, will be implemented in Kawempe division prior to its expansion to cover the entire city of Kampala. Furthermore, it is planned to introduce the program to other cities in Uganda.

According to Catherine Ninsiima, the programs manager at Altogether, the local implementing partner for the initiative, a recent survey has highlighted Kawempe as one of the most severely affected regions in Kampala in terms of weather fluctuations and their consequences.

The survey found that Kawempe experiences frequent flash floods following rainfall, as well as dusty conditions on windy days, among other effects. Ninsiima emphasizes the need to bring the project directly to the people by collaborating with local organizations such as village service groups, religious centers like churches and mosques, and other community gatherings like meeting points, boda boda stages.

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Julius Kiprop, however, provides some advice to the project implementers on how to effectively implement the project and make a positive impact on the community. He emphasizes the importance of addressing the negative attitude that locals have towards weather forecasts.

The Acting Executive Director of UNMA acknowledges that many people believe the information is inaccurate, but he highlights that significant progress has been made, with their forecasts now being over 90 percent accurate.

Additionally, Kiprop advises the project to explore locally relevant methods of sharing information instead of relying on complex means or scientific terminology. He believes that utilizing simple elements such as colors and visual art can have a greater impact compared to solely relying on SMS messages, which was the initial plan for delivering daily forecasts.

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In response to this, Harvey acknowledged the importance of finding the most suitable means to convey such information. He mentioned that their project intends to conduct research to determine the most effective channels for dissemination. Whether it is through music, gossip, or social media, Harvey expressed the project's willingness to adapt and utilize various platforms for better results.

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According to a 2017 report by the World Bank, enhancing weather forecasts can significantly decrease development losses in numerous African cities. The report highlights that investing in hydrometer can potentially save countries USD 13 billion in asset losses each year, in addition to avoiding USD 22 billion in losses to well-being and achieving USD 30 billion in increased productivity.

In simple terms, when farmers have knowledge of upcoming rainfall, they can prevent fertilizer from being washed away and relocate livestock to higher ground before flooding occurs. Reliable information empowers fishermen to avoid life-threatening situations at sea and improve their operational efficiency. Similarly, transporters and market vendors can make use of early warning systems to address the challenges they face and find suitable solutions.