EMUHAYA, Kenya – It is the top of the hour at ten o’clock in the morning and, broadcasting from the top of Esibila hill in Western Kenya, Moses Ombogo is telling farmers to prepare for early rains.
“My dear listener, mother, father, grandma, grandpa, uncle and aunt, we are happy to inform you that the rains have now come and you should be preparing to start planting,” he says.
Down the slope, 80-year-old Mariam Omulama is holding a blue radio with a long aerial. The radio has a winding handle to power it, and a solar panel to charge the built-in battery. She is tuned to Anyole 101.2 Fm – Ombogo’s station.
Nganyi RANET – it stands for “Radio Internet” – is a community radio station set up by the Kenya Meteorological Service to target communities particularly vulnerable to climate extremes. Each station can broadcast in a range of 25-30 kilometres (15-19 miles), and listeners within the zone are given free radio sets.
The other part of the station’s name comes from the Nganyi clan, which for many years has predicted rains locally by monitoring the behavior of plants, birds and insects. As climatic conditions become more erratic, however, some of those traditional indicators are failing.
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“There was this demand for reliable climate information to enable farmers to be able to work. So we thought it was a good opportunity to bring together the meteorological people and the traditional people who have relied on indigenous knowledge to make forecasts,” said Evans Kituyi, a senior programme specialist for the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA), funded by the International Development Research Center of Canada and the UK Department for International Development.
The first rains of Emuhaya traditionally have come in February, and this is about the time that farmers usually plant crops. But this year every farmer held on a little longer.
That’s because the radio station predicted that sufficient rainfall for planting would begin around March 22, “so I can begin planting from the 23rd onward,” said Enos Matende, one farmer.
*(Thomson Reuters Foundation)*