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Artificial Intelligence Being Used In Kenya To Track Locust Swarms For Extermination

Billy KE

March. 09, 2020

Kenneth Mwangi, a satellite information scientist working for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Climate Predictions and Applications Centre (IADCPAC) in Nairobi, says that researchers are running a supercomputer model to be able to predict breeding areas that may have been missed by ground search teams. 
These missed areas could be the epicentre of a new swarm of not sprayed with insecticide.
“The model will be able to tell us the areas in which hoppers are emerging,” says Mwangi. “We will also get ground information. These areas can become a source of an upsurge or a new generation of hoppers.” Adding that these breeding areas can become very difficult and expensive to control if given enough time.
The focus for this initiative is to stop hoppers, the nymph stage of the locust life cycle, from becoming adult locusts in order to halt another cycle of infestation.
“We want to avoid that. We want to advise governments early before an upsurge happens,” states Mwangi.
The supercomputer that the centre is using has successfully been able to forecast the movement of swarms using data such as wind speed as well as wind direction, temperature and humidity in previous times. The model has achieved 90% accuracy in forecasting the location of future swarms as well, says Mwangi.
Now researchers are imputing data like soil moisture and vegetation cover to help predictions of where eggs have been laid and are likely to hatch and thrive. These predictions create data about where African governments need to focus their spraying efforts, helping to cull the hoppers before the true swarm can awaken.
So far, the researchers have been able to catch where the swarms are going to be, and have since been able to tell the government of Uganda that locusts are expected to cross their countryside. In response, Uganda mobilized its army to combat the locusts. Mwangi says the researchers must now focus on where the swarms are going to emerge.
-IT News Africa
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