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Mobile Weather Service Improves Safety of Uganda Fishermen

The Uganda Department of Meteorology (UDoM), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), MTN, Ericsson, National Lake Rescue Institute (NLRI) and the Kalangala Fishing community have come together in a unique partnership, and combined mobile technology, weather forecasting and local know-how, to provide a localised weather alert service to fishing villages on Lake Victoria.

WMO and Ericsson in partnership with MTN, UDoM and the NLRI Institute have made possible the delivery of daily weather forecasts and well-timed warnings in local languages. The service, still in its pilot phase, is being tested by over 1000 fishermen in the Kalangala District of Lake Victoria. . 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% 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 USD 600,000,0001, 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."

"MTN is excited about the pilot, and indeed this partnership, as it allows us to use mobile technology to further touch our communities in a way that brings about socioeconomic change to their daily lives. We also believe that the pilot holds great long-term benefits for the fishing community in the Lake Victoria region, and the rest of the continent.

"Although it forms part of our corporate social investment (CSI), this initiative is integral to our continued efforts to find innovative mobile solutions that support the growth of agriculture and small-medium enterprises in emerging markets," said Christian de Faria, Group Chief Commercial Officer, MTN.

Mary Power, Director Resource Mobilization, WMO said "Severe Weather and Climate events account for almost 90% of natural disasters and related losses of life and property globally. Establishing and sustaining Early Warning Systems in places vulnerable to these events, such as Lake Victoria, where low incomes and marginal living conditions increase peoples' vulnerability, is critical. WMO works with National Meteorological Services to bring these essential services to the people to support economic development and better lifestyles.

Mwambu Wanendeya, Head of Communications and Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability, Ericsson sub Saharan Africa says: "Working towards Ericsson's vision about a Networked Society in Africa is not just about building or expanding networks. It's about being able to address local issues as well as some of the world's biggest challenges, including security, climate change, sustainability, and the availability of education and health care. These efforts are central to the transition to the Networked Society - a world where everything that can benefit from a connection will be connected enabling us to live and interact in new exciting and more sustainable ways."

Tim de Wet, Founder of National Lake Rescue Institute said: "'Saving Lives on Water and Protecting the Marine Environment' is our core objective for marine communities utilizing the waterways of East Africa.

The provision of the free Mobile Weather Alert has accorded marine communities the basic human right of 'choice'. They can now make an 'informed' decision as to whether they travel, trade or fish on the Lake. The default value of this is that it reduces the risks for water users, lessening loss of life. This, therefore, has a direct impact on their economies with the resultant effect of poverty reduction."

"In our work with small-holder farmers across Uganda, we have similarly found strong demand for timely and highly localized weather information. This solution, if properly contextualized, could be a powerful tool to also improve farm productivity and mitigate the risks of climate change through new products such as weather index-base crop insurance," said Sean Paavo Krepp, Grameen Foundation Country Director.

Ericsson
10-May-2012

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