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AI to help farmers fight locusts

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A free tool called Kuzi is set to help farmers and pastoralists across Africa to predict and control locust behaviour. The tool delivers warnings by SMS, helping farmers across Africa against locust attacks. Kuzi — the Swahili name for the wattled starling, a bird renowned for eating locusts — utilises artificial intelligence (AI) to generate a real-time heatmap of locusts across Africa, showing all potential migration routes, and giving a real-time locust breeding index.

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. The present threat and the damage possible highlights the need for early detection and control measures to be in place, such as Kuzi, which are critical in desert locust management. This control measure will offer farmers and pastoralists a vital tool in the fight against world hunger and food insecurity.

Kuzi uses satellite data, soil sensor data, ground meteorological observation, and machine learning to predict the breeding, occurrence and migration routes of desert locusts across the horn of African and Eastern African countries, and uses deep learning to identify the formation of locust swarms. The tool then sends farmers and pastoralists free SMS alerts 2-3 months in advance of when locusts are highly likely to attack farms and livestock in the areas.

“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,” says John Oroko, CEO of Selina Wamucii who created Kuzi. “We have a responsibility to develop and deploy locally bred solutions that address these challenges faced by our vulnerable rural communities.”

Alerts are currently available for Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda — in the regional languages of Kiswahili, Somali and Amharic, spoken by over 200 million people across Eastern Africa. There are plans to expand Kuzi to the rest of Africa.

Farmers can sign up for the SMS alerts with any mobile device, with or without an internet connection, capture the GPS location of their farm, and they are good to go, for free.

Click here to sign up to Kuzi.

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