Nganyi Community Resource Centre: Community radio station broadcasts weather forecasts, climate change news to farmers in Kenya

May 04, 2016

To mark World Meteorological Day on March 23, 2015, the Kenya Meteorological Services (KMS) launched a resource centre and radio station in western Kenya to disseminate weather and climate information. 

In 2006, the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) managed a project under the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa program (jointly funded by IDRC and the UK’s Department for International Development—DFID), which brought together communities, institutions, and individuals in Vihiga County, western Kenya, to build their capacity to manage climate risk. The resource centre is a legacy of that initiative.

Radio forecasts help farmers know when to start planting

Thanks to a community radio station that is delivering accurate and timely weather forecasts, farmers can better determine when to plant their crops. The Nganyi RANET radio station, established by KMS in areas vulnerable to climate extremes, has been broadcasting for more than nine months, serving a radius of 25-30 kms.

Thanks to the radio forecasts, farmer Enos Matende knows that the rains will be delayed this year and he can only start planting toward the end of March. “The rains will start around March 22, not in February, so I can start planting from March 23 onwards,” he says.

“We get people from a certain community and train them from our headquarters. We send the weather forecasts from the headquarters through email and SMS,” says Hannah Kimani, a senior KMS meteorologist. They are then able to broadcast the weather in the local language.

Blending tradition and science

The Nganyi clan is known for being gifted in predicting rain. But they have faced challenges recently in delivering accurate forecasts, perhaps due to rapid climatic changes. As a result they have been losing people’s trust. 

“We realized that communities such as the Nganyi have for decades relied on their indigenous knowledge for weather forecasting, which seemed to work very well for them for years. But we were increasingly getting reports that some of the indicators they were using had begun to change,” said Evans Kituyi, a senior program specialist with IDRC's Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia program.

At the same time, the meteorological department’s forecasts were not trusted by the locals because their predictions were not always accurate.

The project enabled the Nganyi and scientists to work together to develop a common approach to forecasting weather for up to three months, and then to communicate the information efficiently. They work together on joint forecasts, which are then turned into advisories for dissemination. Messages are conveyed through drama and vernacular radio. 

Some 20 people have since been hired and trained to run the daily operations at the radio station. To boost access, KMS distributed radio handsets to communities with a built-in solar power generator and wind-up system.

KMS senior assistant director Samuel Mwangi says the radio broadcasts have had a tremendous impact in the community.

“We are now broadening our reach. For the Nganyi community, they had to pass on this information by word of mouth, but with the radio station we are able to broadcast this to a wider community. So we are reaching more people quickly and more clearly, and with the integrated approach we are able to influence change and inspire development within the region,” says Mwangi.

Sharing results more broadly

For their part, the Nganyi are happy that their indigenous knowledge is now available to the world through radio broadcasts and a recently published book, Coping with local disasters using indigenous knowledge: Experiences from Nganyi community of Western Kenya

Hezekiah Musungu says he and other Nganyi have travelled to Egypt and Zanzibar to talk about rain prediction and climate change. “The greatest impact is that we have now distanced ourselves from the old way of doing things. We are now at the table. We discuss things.”

Agrometeorologist Jasper Mwesigwa has been translating weather forecast information into agricultural advisories, through ICPAC. He says farmers are now able to increase yields and reduce conflicts in homes. “By using climate information, the farmers have increased yields three to four times. Where they used to produce one bag of maize, they now produce four. And where they used to produce two bags of sorghum, they now produce eight and above,” says Mwesigwa.

At the resource centre launch ceremony, Environment Secretary Alice Kaudia lauded its resourcefulness for harnessing climate knowledge and information that will enable people to take action. “If you don’t have information, you don’t take action. And it is IDRC and DFID funding that has enabled us to celebrate what we are celebrating today.” 

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