The satellite technology at the forefront of successful farming in Uganda

The Drought and Flood Mitigation Service initiative (DFMS) is working on safeguarding the agricultural efforts in Uganda. We spoke with Andrea Orler, DFMS Junior Software Developer, who recently visited one of the most affected regions by climate change to understand the needs of the farming community.

Improving weather forecasts is essential when it comes to dealing the effects of climate change and save agricultural investments. The Karamoja region in Uganda is one of the most affected by climate change, suffering from long and unpredictable droughts that alternate with sudden floods. Weather forecast is a major challenge in that country where 80% of the population relies upon farming for its livelihood.

In order to understand the needs of the farming community and the infrastructure required, the DFMS team met with officers and farmers living in the Moroto, Napak, Kotido, and Abim districts in July. Here, only about 10% of the population lives in the main town, while the rest is spread in the countryside organised in small farming communities that mostly depend on their agricultural production for sustenance. These communities are often remote and poorly connected to the main town.

Karamoja Region

“We had the opportunity to visit the farming communities and witness first-hand how the DFMS project has the potential to impact Ugandan farmers’ lives, helping in the season planning and thus preventing wasting the seeds they rely on for their livelihood,” said Orler. “Listening to the local officers and farmers’ issues allowed us to have a deeper insight into the challenges they face and thus better tailor the final service to their needs,” he added.

One of the main issues of the region is the unpredictability of the weather. In the past, they were accustomed to cyclic rain patterns, which ensured regular rainfalls in certain months. In the last decade, that hasn’t been the case: the rainy seasons are not regular as they used to be, changing from year to year. “The farmers would tell us how, during this season, they planted in May and in June, which are meant to be rainy months, but both times the lack of rain would prevent the crops to grow and spoiled the entire harvest.”

Local farming community

Earth Observation data to produce better forecasts

The farmers currently receive weather forecast information via the radio. However, they tend to use their indigenous methods to predict the rainfall. Unlike the current weather forecasts, DFMS provides local prediction, with a parish level detail, ensuring more specific and accurate data. The project uses satellite imaginery that integrates weather and hydrological data to provide local agricultural officers with a wide and comprehensive set of information that is later communicated to the farmers.

“The trip was very useful in highlighting the structural challenges to overcome: building confidence in weather forecasts, dissemination of the information to the District Agriculture Offices, and the lack of network infrastructure and high illiteracy rates. We took home the confidence that we are on the right track. We are motivated for the future by the knowledge that we can have a great impact on the everyday life of Ugandans,” he concluded.

The project is part of the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP), a 5-year, £152 million programs designed to partner UK space expertise with governments and organizations in emerging and developing economies around the world in order to deliver a sustainable economic or societal benefit.

Discover the satellites that are shaping our future

In this edition of OPENSPACE, we present you some of the most ground-breaking projects that are using satellite technology to transform our lives, including the Drought and Flood Mitigation Service