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UNMA readies for launch of weather forecast app

UNMA says the new application will be cheaper compared to the current system where someone has to use the USSD code *201# to access the weather forecast information.

JInja, (UG): The Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) revealed that final touches are underway to launch a mobile application that will enable the public to access weather forecasts via the internet.

The authority, which is the statutory body in charge of daily weather forecasts says the teams behind the design and development of the app are already in advanced stages, and that it will be launched to go live before this year ends. 

This was revealed in a two-day media training last week where at least 30 radio journalists from Busoga and Northern Uganda were equipped with knowledge on reporting about climate change adaptation for smallholder farmers from 27th-28th September at Sunset Hotel in Jinja City.

The Director of Forecasting Services at UNMA, Dr Isaac Mugume Amooti told DailyExpress that the online application will be cheaper compared to the current system where someone has to use the USSD code *201# to access the weather forecast information.

“We thought that it’s now time that we develop a mobile application which is technically called the mobile app, so our design teams are already in the advanced stages of unveiling this app. Right now we can estimate that the app may come live before the end of this year. The cost involved in handling the mobile app is considerably lower compared to the costs of pressing *201#.

The increasing number of smartphones continues to make the tasked team optimistic that the users will simply access information on weather forecasts by a click according to Dr Mugume, saying it will come with enhanced features like a number of graphics once it’s realized.

“Since we’re seeing that there is an increasing number of smartphones, we’re very optimistic that our users will receive this weather information using the app and also the enhanced features whereby you can even show the difference graphics in the mobile apps, we highly think that acceptability of this app would be realized,” Dr Mugume added. 

The Director of Forecasting Services at UNMA, Dr Isaac Mugume presenting during the training workshop

Dr Mugume explained that there is a challenge where some unofficial people take advantage of weak regulations to produce weather forecast information saying this risks the country’s national security and development.

For this case, he strongly advised that only UNMA should be responsible for releasing weather information before quoting Kenya Meteorologist Directorate (KMD), Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TAMA) and Rwanda Meteorological Agency (RMA) as the mandated bodies handling weather forecasts in the neighbouring countries.

“Metrology as a science, first of whole is a national security because the information you give has a security bearing; suppose you gave out the wrong information which can cause challenges in development or which can cause other countries to take advantage of the weather information you have given. Weather information should be keenly regulated and it is better to have just one authority mandated and for Uganda’s case, it’s UNMA,” Dr Mugume emphasized.

Dr Isaac Mugume Amooti speaking to DailyExpress

The UNMA Boss also regretted the dilapidated state of weather stations at schools and other places he advised authorities in schools to rehabilitate the stations since they have a strong role in ensuring hands-on learning given the new curriculum.

“We regret to see that these instruments have fallen to such a dilapidated state, so what we highly advise is to come up and work together to revive these stations. You realize that it’s also a learning area for different learners in the school especially looking at the new curriculum which promotes hands-on,” he said.

He highly advised that the stations be rehabilitated urging different concerned people to approach them and chat out a way forward to have the stations rehabilitated pointing out that they are willing to work with authorities in replacing equipment especially where stations need new equipment,” Dr Mugume said.

The general secretary of the Organization of African Instituted Churches Rev. Nicta Lubaale, challenged journalists to prioritize reporting on how best smallholder farmers can be supported in adapting to climate change. He says the organisation among others aims at ensuring that churches serves effectively to the needs of their people or communities of which climate change affects them.

A section of journalists pose in a group photo after the training

The engagement involved a number of facilitators like Mr. Luganda David, the coordinator Network of Climate Journalism of the Greater Horn of Africa, Mr. Kaggwa Andrew, the publication and documentation officer at the Network of Climate Journalism of the Greater Horn of Africa and some representatives from the farming groups in Busoga.

However, the headteacher of Ibaako Primary School in Bugweri District, Mr Obonyo Vincent Ssere, says they are less funded to install a weather station and that the facility is considered expensive to install given the low funding from the centre and they end up scrapping it from the priority list.

“We don’t have it and a number of schools here in Bugweri district don’t have the facility. It’s expensive to install and this is the reason we don’t put emphasis on having them around and the money which comes to fund the school is less to facilitate such things,” Mr Obonyo said before calling upon authorities to support them in setting up the facility.

SimonPeter Isabirye, Eastern Bureau Chief for DailyExpress in a media interaction with Iganga’s Agriculture officer Mr. Bazalaki Sully Nantatya

While engaging the Iganga District Agriculture officer Mr. Bazalaki Sully Nantatya, he says smallholder farmers at times register losses especially where the UNMA’s forecasts are not realized.

He says they keep on emphasizing farmers to adapt to climate changes by embracing modern methods of farming like using improved seeds, planting early maturing varieties, and drought tolerant varieties, among others. 

“For us, we advised farmers to adapt to climate change by embracing modern methods of farming like having improved seeds, planting drought tolerant and early maturing varieties. We always emphasize that farmers prepare their gardens well by retaining water in trenches and practising mulching,” Mr Nantatya said adding that a number of smallholder farmers are not relying on UNMA information given the changing nature.

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