The partnership between Econet Wireless Zimbabwe and the Metrological Services Department in providing weather information to smallholder farmers does not mean that Econet has taken over the role of the MSD to issue weather forecasts, the department’s head of external relations Mr Elliot Bungare has said.
“MSD still has the mandate to issue weather forecasts to the public while Econet only provides the data platform,” he said.
Mr Bangure also said that previously, weather measurement was done physically but the new weather station automatically records the parameters (recordings) and transmits the data at the weather station to MSD remote stations via short message service platform and ultimately reaches the MSD offices in Harare.
He added that the data received at the MSD in Harare will be relayed to the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development for informed policy making.
The new system for weather measurement and monitoring will be installed throughout the country to assist smallholder farmers in accessing information.
Econet chief executive Mr Douglas Mboweni said:
“Econet has chosen Mashonaland East province as the location for a pilot scheme, which will last between November this year and March 2014. The system for weather measurement and monitoring has already been installed and the plastic capsules are being put into seed packs.
“Based on the results of the pilot scheme, Econet will expand it nationally, in time for next year’s planting season.
“Our engineers and those from the Meterological Services Department are working together in ensuring that all farmers get updated information on the weather which will help them make informed decisions on what and when to plant their crops,” he said.
The Econet base station in the farmers’ area monitors weather patterns including rainfall, temperature and humidity.
This information is used by weather experts to tell if there has been a drought in the area.
The system being built by Econet is intended to give farmers, particularly smallholder farmers, what is known as “weather-indexed insurance cover”.
The weather-indexed drought insurance cover for smallholder farmers allows farmers to make a financial claim if their crops fail because of either inadequate or excessive rainfall.
Under the scheme known as EcoFarmer, a farmer can buy insurance for as little as US8c per day deducted from their prepaid phone account during the agricultural season.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made who was the guest of honour at the launch lauded Econet for introducing the weather indexed crop cover insurance, which was already on a pilot programme in Mashonaland East province