Kuzi alerts farmers two to three months in advance of when locusts are likely to attack farms and livestock forage in their areas, allowing for early intervention. Picture: Isak Amin/FAO via AP)
Kuzi alerts farmers two to three months in advance of when locusts are likely to attack farms and livestock forage in their areas, allowing for early intervention. Picture: Isak Amin/FAO via AP)

Newly designed AI tool alerts farmers on when locusts are likely to attack

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Jan 12, 2021

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Johannesburg - Farmers can now be better prepared to protect their crops from locusts, thanks to a newly designed early detection Artificial Intelligence tool.

Kuzi uses satellite data, soil sensor data, ground meteorological observation, and machine learning to predict the breeding, occurrence, and migration routes of desert locusts.

Farmers and pastoralists receive free SMS alerts two to three months in advance of when locusts are likely to attack farms and livestock forage in their areas, allowing for early intervention.

The alerts are in regional languages of Kiswahili, Somali and Amharic, spoken by more than 200 million people in the region.

The free tool helps farmers and pastoralists across Africa predict and control locust behaviour.

Kuzi, the Swahili name for the wattled starling, a bird renowned for eating locusts, is an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered tool.

It generates a real-time heatmap of locusts across Africa. It shows all potential migration routes, and gives a real-time locust breeding index.

Using satellite and soil sensor data plus ground meteorological observation, and machine learning, Kuzi can predict the breeding, occurrence and migration routes of desert locusts across the horn of African and Eastern African countries.

It uses deep learning to identify the formation of locust swarms. Kuzi then sends farmers and pastoralists free SMS alerts warning them when locusts are likely to attack farms and livestock in their areas.

Without preventative measures, a swarm of 80 million locusts can consume food equivalent to that eaten by 35 000 people a day, devastating food stocks for vulnerable communities.

Putting in place early detection and control measures – critical in desert locust management – will offer farmers and pastoralists a vital tool in the fight against world hunger and food insecurity.

Alerts are available for Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda, in the regional languages of Kiswahili, Somali and Amharic, spoken by more than 200 million people across Eastern Africa.

“The first international anti-locust conference was held in Rome in 1931, yet Africa continues to experience locust invasions almost 100 years later. The worst locust invasion in 70 years occurred last year, threatening food supplies for millions of people across Eastern Africa,” said John Oroko, the chief executive of Kuzi’s creator, Selina Wamucii.

“There has to be a better way to do this, one that has the local communities being central in the fight against locusts.

“A new wave of locust upsurge now threatens millions across eastern and southern Africa, exacerbating food insecurity for already vulnerable communities, amidst the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have a responsibility to develop and deploy locally bred solutions that address these challenges,” Oroko said.

The free tool is available to users in Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

There are plans to roll it out to the rest of Africa. Farmers can sign up for the free SMS alerts with any cellphone device, with or without an internet connection, to have the GPS location of their farm captured.

For more information, visit https:// www.selinawamucii.com/kuzi/.

The Star

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