"Utabiri wa hali ya hewa" (Swahili for "Beep for Weather") is a radio and mobile phone service designed to enable farmers to receive important weather and agricultural information on their mobile phones. The farmers call into a radio station and promptly hang up (known as a beep), then receive a return call, free of charge, to listen to a recorded message. Launched in December 2013, the service was developed by Farm Radio International and their radio and information, communication and technology (ICT) innovation lab, The Hangar, and was piloted in the Kilimajaro, Arusha, and Manyara Regions of Tanzania.
The project was initiated based on the idea that because of "weather patterns shifting due to climate change, farmers need weather-related information they can count on." The Beep4Weather audio recording featured a 30-second regional weather forecast recorded by Tanzanian journalist Rotlinde Achimpota with data from the Tanzania Meteorological Agency and Toto Agriculture, as well as weather-specific advice for farmers provided by an agricultural extension officer. This farming advice could, for example, be on when to plant certain crops and when to harvest based on the expected weather pattern. In collaboration with FRI staff, the journalist prepared both weekly and monthly weather reports for radio stations. Callers could also sign up for text message notices about future updates.
In order to raise awareness and familiarise farmers with the service, the participating radio stations aired a promotional jingle that explained how the service works and encouraged listeners to beep (place a missed call) to sign up for updates. The promotional jingle ran for over a week. According to FRI, approximately 600 listeners subscribed to receive text message notifications to alert them of newly available updates. Over time, other farmers not subscribed to the SMS updates learned about the service over the radio and also beeped for weather.
Climate Change, Agriculture
According to Farm radio International, "Between December 2013 and April 2014, 1,241 different people called in to receive a call back with weather and farming advice, for a total of 2,041 beeps." As well, a recent poll of the subscribing farmers demonstrated positive results. "When asked if Beep4Weather information was helpful in farming activities, nearly 70 per cent of respondents said yes. And, when asked if they would recommend Beep4Weather to other farmers, nearly 85 per cent of respondents said yes."
Farm Radio International, The Hangar, Radio 5, Radio Sauti ya Injili, Habari Maalum Media.
Email from Adam Bemma, Farm Radio in Tanzania, and Farm Radio International Website on August 22, 2014.