livestock in Kenya aided by remote sensing and cellphones

Imagine being a livestock herder, subsisting in a small community south of Nairobi in Kenya. Drought is a cyclical phenomenon in your grassland environment, and whenever it hits, you might come across a zebra carcass, or weep at the loss of one of your own cattle. One of the largest repercussions begins the moment drought becomes pervasive; everyone starts trying to sell animals before they die, and the price for livestock plummets. This is potentially the original meaning of the “stock” market, and the large investment you made in your animals over time is now nearly worthless. Frustrated, you wish you had sold your animals earlier, just before the drought when the price was normal.

The technology of remote sensing actually has large repercussions for communities such as yours, because of its capacity to observe large-scale trends and extrapolate into the future. Data collected by satellite avoids the high cost of groundwork in such large areas, and can provide global climate information that is not otherwise evident to people on the ground. Many researchers have extolled the virtues of remote-sensing operations for predicting drought and enabling mitigation strategies by those who would otherwise be adversely affected, and advocate for local policy-makers to institute this technology.

Hearing this, as a member of the local community, you might wonder how you will receive such information. You are aware that your tribe has extensive methods for predicting droughts, but feel open to the idea of reinforcing your predictions based on remote sensing data. However, you are not regularly in touch with the Internet. The families of your tribe are located at great distances throughout the landscape so it is difficult to approach everyone at once. Here, again, geospatial communications technologies can serve their own purposes! All the adults you know have a cell phone (even if they don’t read), and everyone can be connected to a larger network of information dissemination almost instantly. This type of alert has been proposed for fires in South Africa, and could revolutionize your access to drought early-warning systems. If everyone who was interested was able to register their phone number at the outset, information could be transmitted easily and quickly around the area, in a fashion timely enough for people to hedge their bets on when to sell their animals and prepare for a coming drought. Indeed, a relatively easy-to-use cell phone alert platform has been developed for crisis situations in developing countries. It is thought-provoking to anticipate that the food insecurity pervasive in the current Kenyan drought could be potentially mitigated.

Thanks to EC, Intro to GIS, for the post

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