The government has set up an Automatic Weather Station (AWS) in Machakos in a move meant to address issues of climate change.
The AWS which is among 154 others set up in 24 counties at a total cost of Sh500 million have been sponsored by the World Bank through the Kenya Climate-Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP).
Speaking during the official commissioning of the weather station at the Machakos Agricultural Center Wednesday, Principal Secretary Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Dr. Chris Kiptoo said the AWS will also help increase agricultural productivity.
“KSCAP is one of the projects in the Ministry of Agriculture that addresses issues of climate change focusing on increasing agricultural productivity, enhancing resilience to impacts of climate change and reduction in GreenHouse Gases emissions,” said Dr. Kiptoo.
He pointed out that the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) plays a very crucial role in socio-economic development through its mandate of providing timely and accurate weather forecasts and advisories.
“Kenya Meteorological Department in the KCSAP project falls under component three which focuses on supporting agro-weather, market, climate and advisory services,” said Kiptoo.
“Specifically under this component, KMD will help enhance agro-weather and climate information services, build core capacity for agro-weather observation and forecasting, develop long term ability to operate and maintain agro-weather and climate information services,” added Kiptoo.
He noted that Kenya’s economy as well as the health, security and prosperity of its people are impacted by weather and climate given that extreme events, such as droughts, severe storms or floods, can reverse development gains and erode livelihoods.
“Climate change is exacerbating sustainable development challenges by increasing the frequency and severity of extreme events. In order to manage climate risks, decision makers must understand the risks well and be able to anticipate them,” said Kiptoo.
The PS urged all stakeholders to ensure that they plan their various activities in line with the weather and climate forecasts, warnings, advisories and alerts from KMD.
Kiptoo noted that a well-functioning climate service has the potential to inform a range of both short and long term decisions contributing to the resilience of governments, organizations, and individuals to current climate variability.
The PS noted that this will also prepare for uncertain future that is very likely to be more challenging, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
He further pledged that the Ministry would put in place an elaborate maintenance strategy to ensure sustainability of the equipment.
National KMD Director Dr. David Gikungu said KMD did mapping of existing publicly and privately operated AWS, held consultative workshops with the private owners in addition to identifying sites for the installation of the stations and rain gauges across the country.
Dr. Gikungu revealed that KMD is in the process of enhancing its early warning system, an activity to be undertaken in this financial year under the KCSAP project.
He pointed out that some of the challenges the AWS installation faces comprise security issues in some of the counties where some of the equipment are already vandalized hence the need to enhance security.
The Director further pointed out that for sustainability, the CDMS need to be facilitated on a quarterly basis to carry out simple maintenance.
“I wish to assure that KMD will try its level best to put a sustainable plan in place so that this equipment continues benefiting our country through the climate and weather products generated from the AWS data,” he added.
The 154 AWS Comprise 120 synoptic (like the one set up in Machakos), 17 agromet and 17 hydromet stations. Data from these stations is relayed to the downscaling computers in the county Directors of meteorology offices in the project counties and KMD headquarters in Nairobi.
The County Directors of meteorology are able to use these data to analyse and downscale the weather forecasts to their counties up to the ward level.
The project is implemented by GoK through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and implementing partners Kenya Meteorological department and the Kenya Agricultural and Research Organization.
By Rachael Kilonzo and Juliah Musyoka