The Uganda Department of Meteorology (UDoM), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), MTN, Ericsson, National Lake Rescue Institute (NLRI) and the Kalangala Fishing community have partnered to launch a localised weather alert service to fishing villages on Lake Victoria which uses mobile technology, called Mobile Weather Alert service.
The system makes it possible for the partners to deliver daily weather forecasts and well-timed warnings in local languages. The service, still in its pilot phase, is being tested by over 1,000 fishermen in the Kalangala District of Lake Victoria.
For wider roll-out, MTN, Grameen Foundation AppLab Uganda and Ericsson are in the preparation of the wider service offering together with UDoM, which will then be available for the entire Lake Victoria community in the next three months.
MTN Uganda, in partnership Uganda Department of Meteorology will, upon completion of the pilot, deliver the mobile service free of charge to MTN customers. The unique weather information service will enable fishermen and traders to make informed decisions on, for example, when and where to fish in Lake Victoria, thus helping to save lives and preserve livelihoods.
The pilot involves training 19 fishermen community representatives in basic understanding of weather forecasts and how to respond to various alerts. Equipped with mobile phones, the ommunity representatives then pass on their knowledge to fishermen and traders to sign up to the Mobile Weather Alert service. Thus far, the value of the Mobile Weather Alert forecast service is being repeatedly confirmed.
A mobile-phone based survey, conducted by Grameen Foundation AppLab Uganda, of 200 fishermen using Mobile Weather Alert service reported the weather alert service being important with 96 per cent of the respondents saying it has improved the safety of their lives.
Lake Victoria was chosen for the pilot, being the world’s second-largest freshwater lake, provides a livelihood, directly and indirectly, to over 3.5 million people. The lake supports Africa’s largest inland fishery and produces over 800,000 tons of fish annually, currently worth about US $ 600 million, and reported estimates indicate that as many as 5,000 members of the fishing community die in boating accidents in the lake each year because they are unprepared for bad weather conditions.
Michael Nkalubo, Commissioner,Uganda Department of Meteorology said: “This is a real demonstration of the importance of meteorological expertise to our society. It has also provided the Uganda Department of Meteorology with valuable feedback on the reliability of our forecasts for very localized conditions on Lake Victoria. In future we hope to be able to extend the Mobile Weather Alert project to other fishing communities and to famers and other community sectors as part of a wider effort to improve the reliability and reach of severe weather forecasting.”