Africa utilises AI to thwart locust invasion


Locusts exposing millions of southern African citizens to food insecurity

from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – THE continent is turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to fight the devastating invasion of locusts.

Kuzi, a free tool that will help farmers and pastoralists across the continent to predict and control the behavior of the insect, has been launched.

Kuzi is the Swahili name for the wattled starling, a bird renowned for eating locusts.

The tool is AI-powered and generates a real-time heatmap of locusts across Africa, shows all potential migration routes and gives a real-time locust breeding index.

Alerts are currently available for Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda, in the regional languages of Kiswahili, Somali and Amharic.

These languages are spoken by over 200 million people across East Africa.

There are plans to roll out the free tool to cover the rest of Africa.

John Oroko, Chief Executive Officer of Kuzi’s creator, Selina Wamucii, said the first international anti-locust conference was held in Rome in 1931 but Africa continued to experience locust invasions almost 100 years later.

The worst locust invasion in 70 years occurred in 2020, threatening food supplies for millions of people across Eastern Africa.

“There has to be a better way to do this, one that has the local communities being central in the fight against locusts,” Oroko said.

He said a new wave of locust upsurge now threatened millions across Eastern and Southern Africa, exacerbating food insecurity for already vulnerable communities, amid the challenges of the coronavirus-19 pandemic.

“We have a responsibility to develop and deploy locally bred solutions that address these challenges faced by our vulnerable rural communities,” Oroko added.

Using satellite data, soil sensor data, ground meteorological observation, and machine learning, Kuzi can predict the breeding, occurrence and migration routes of desert locusts across the horn of African and Eastern African countries.

It uses deep learning to identify the formation of locust swarms. Kuzi 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 their areas.

Farmers can sign up for the free SMS alerts with any mobile device, with or without an internet connection, capture the GPS location of their farm without any charges.

– CAJ News

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