AI helps farmers fight against locusts in Africa

27-01 | |
Gregararius Hopper locusts in Kenya. Photo: Selina Wamucii
Gregararius Hopper locusts in Kenya. Photo: Selina Wamucii

A free tool has been developed and launched to help farmers and pastoralists across Africa to predict and control locust behaviour.

Kuzi – the Swahili (official language in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) name for the wattled starling, a bird renowned for eating locusts – is an AI-powered tool that generates a real-time heatmap of locusts across Africa. The tool shows all potential migration routes, and also gives a real-time locust breeding index.

Using satellite data, soil sensor data, ground meteorological observation, and machine learning, Kuzi can predict the breeding, occurrence and migration routes of desert locusts across the horn of African and Eastern African countries, and uses data to identify the formation of locust swarms. Kuzi then sends farmers and pastoralists free SMS alerts 2-3 months in advance of when locusts are highly likely to attack farms and livestock in their areas.

…the worst locust invasion in 70 years occurring in 2020…”

According to the creators of Kuzi, Selina Wamucii, putting early detection and control measures in place, which are critical in desert locust management, will offer farmers and pastoralists a vital tool in the fight against world hunger and food insecurity.

Farmers can sign up for the free SMS alerts with any mobile device. Photo: Selina Wamucii
Farmers can sign up for the free SMS alerts with any mobile device. Photo: Selina Wamucii

“The first international anti-locust conference was held in Rome in 1931…with the worst locust invasion in 70 years occurring in 2020,” said John Oroko, CEO of Selina Wamucii. “A new wave of locust upsurge now threatens millions across Eastern and Southern Africa, exacerbating food insecurity for already vulnerable communities.”

The free tool is currently available to users in Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda with plans to roll out to the rest of Africa. “The move to implement Kuzi in local African languages has broken a huge barrier and simplified technology, enabling millions of farmers to access a useful digital service right from their hands,” said Oroko.

Farmers can sign up for the free SMS alerts with any mobile device, with or without an internet connection, capture the GPS location of their farm, and they are good to go, without any charges.

Berkhout
Natalie Berkhout Freelance journalist



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