By Gift Briton

The ongoing inaugural African Conference on Agricultural Technologies (ACAT) has triggered discussions around early warning systems with speakers urging Governments to put more effort into infrastructure development for local farmers to benefit from them.

Early warning is a key component in reducing risks associated with disaster. However, farmers cannot benefit from it if they lack access to the required technologies as well as knowledge and skills, which is the case with most African smallholder farmers.

To ensure that the benefits of early warning systems are realized by local farmers, Dr. Moses Mwesigwe, Executive Director Desert- Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa (DLCO-EA), advises that governments need to invest more in infrastructure, create policies and enabling environment that promotes research and innovations.

Dr. Mwesigwe who was speaking during a plenary at ACAT further notes that the development of early warning systems needs to be a participatory process, adding that, “we must take part in training and capacity strengthening for all actors involved in the food chain to ensure that our farmers are equipped with skills and knowledge to effectively utilize new technologies.”

Dr. Moses Mwesigwe,Executive Director Desert- Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa (DLCO-EA)

He equally noted the importance of data in guiding and informing decision-making policy as well as the integration of traditional indigenous knowledge in the early warning systems.

“For the early warning systems to be easily adopted by farmers, there is a need to do capacity building and training, involve the communities at risk, facilitate public education and awareness of risks, effectively disseminate messages and warnings, and ensure there is a constant state of preparedness,” he explained.

Mwesigwe added that community leaders also need to be involved and all actors sensitized in the whole process of developing early warming systems.

Dr. Stephen Njoka, the immediate former Executive Director-DCLO-EA, highlighted the importance of political will in promoting innovations and investments around early warning systems.

“Government efforts should be geared more towards supporting infrastructural development in the rural areas. The support comes in two forms; physical support including accessibility of places and also technical support such as so that it becomes easier for the farmers to access information,” Njoka said.

He observed that political support from a country’s leadership is critical as it facilitates the development and use of these technologies.

“We need policies that support innovations, enabling environment and collaboration for the participation of all stakeholders. Governments sometimes might have bureaucracies that scare away the private sector,” he continued.

Dr. Daniel Karanja, Deputy Director, Research and Innovation at the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI)

Dr. Daniel Karanja, Deputy Director, Research and Innovation at the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) noted that in the era of changing climate, pests are also adapting to the different changes in the weather pattern.

Dr. Karanja said that platforms where farmers come and seek solutions to address some of the challenges they face are very critical.

Additionally, data from such platforms can be used to do target follow-ups within the farms to understand where the problem is coming from.

“There is a need for cross-border collaboration to curb some of the challenges. Some of the pests are transboundary and therefore cross border partnerships and community mobilization the community to understand and have some have concerted efforts to preventing the challenge,” he said.