Photo: K. Dhanji/ILRI

Kenyan agriculture data platform gets upgrade

Production of climate data from the Kenya Agricultural Observatory Platform (KAOP) grows fivefold thanks to changes to the interface design and an upgrade to its backend processing power.

The Kenya Agricultural Observatory Platform (KAOP) now integrates ward-level weather forecasts, thanks to the partnership between Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA), the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD).

A new look interface for the KAOP was recently unveiled by Ram Dhulipala, a senior data scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Dhulipala also announced to a congregation of some of Kenya's most senior representatives in the realm of climate services that KAOP backend data processing capabilities have been strengthened thanks to the partnership.

The combination of more powerful data processing and user accessibility means that farmer decision support tools—localised for various Kenyan communities—now combine more data collected from a broader spectrum of partners, to provide more robust agro-advisories.

KAOP, a digital platform developed through a joint initiative between the KALRO and the KMD, is designed to provide weather information to support decision-making in the agricultural sector in Kenya.

Ram Dulipala, Senior Data Scientist at ILRI, making a presentation at the soft launch of the new look Kenya Agricultural Observatory Platform (KAOP) in March. Photo: D. Ngome/ILRI
Commenting on the platform's new features, Dhulipala highlighted how the improved KAOP integrates ward-level weather forecasts to produce localised advice relevant to Kenya's smallholder farmers.

"We can already see the partnerships have diversified our data sources and are now facilitating a platform for agro-climatic analysis to build farmers' climate resilience and help authorities make informed policy decisions."

Ram Dhulipala, Senior Data Scientist at ILRI

Under the leadership of ILRI, key stakeholders drawn from Kenya's climate information services (CIS) and climate-smart agriculture (CSA) sectors met to address challenges identified as bottlenecks to efficiency in CIS and ag-advisory dissemination.

From these discussions held in early 2022, stakeholders outlined some of the obstacles to the provision and use of CIS/CSA advisory services, including:

  • Smallholder farmers in Kenya have limited access to climate information, and as a result, they are more vulnerable to climate-related risks such as droughts, floods, and pests.
  • Many farmers and end-users lack the skills and knowledge to effectively interpret weather forecasts and understand how to adjust their farming practices based on the information, leading to suboptimal decision-making and reduced yields.
  • There is limited coordination and collaboration between the various stakeholders in Kenya who provide climate information and agricultural advisory services, resulting in duplication of efforts, gaps in service provision, and a lack of coherence in policy and programming.
  • Negligible funding for climate information and agricultural advisory services has constrained the sector's sustainable growth.

These stakeholders wanted improvements to the KAOP platform as Kenya's primary agricultural CIS platform.

So, AICCRA and KARLO integrated the systems from an AgData Hub into the KAOP backend to optimise data processing. 

AgData Hubs integrate data from multiple sources to help provide advisories and information that helps end users and farmers make informed decisions on climate-smart agriculture.

Meanwhile, KMD updated their information-sharing system with KALRO, providing machine-readable data to ease manipulation and advisory generation.

Morris Gatheru, an information systems developer at KALRO and an integral member of the KAOP development team, appreciates the timeliness of the initiative, especially against the backdrop of the extreme weather variations that are currently affecting farm productivity and national agriculture planning in Kenya.

"For us, the feedback and contributions from partners with specific and varied expertise in the climate information space touched on both the quality of data and advisories as well as the system's functioning as a user-friendly and dynamic system with constantly updating data."

Morris Gatheru, Webmaster and Software Development Lead, KALRO

The unveiling of the improved KAOP at a stakeholder's workshop at ILRI in March 2023 allowed Kenyan stakeholders to review the changes made on the platform and provide feedback for further improvement.

Before the improvements to KAOP had been made, the system was disseminating advisories (usually through SMS messages) that, on average, reached 50,000 farmers a month. 

By the time of the 'sneak preview' of the improved KAOP, the system was disseminating advisories to 250,000 farmers every month across five counties in Kenya, with more than 60% of those farmers being women.

This overhaul of the platform is expected to increase access to agro-climate information for farmers, policymakers, and other stakeholders in the sector. The integration of AgData Hub also enhance the capabilities of the KAOP by providing access to additional data sources and analytical tools.

AICCRA continues to provide technical support in data infrastructure and analytics, while stimulating strategic partnerships between national research systems and key stakeholders in Kenya to streamline the deployment of climate-smart agricultural advisories.

"Improving this platform has broadened its output beyond agro-advisory to include important climate change and drought analysis information. It also fills the gap of harmonising climate information and agro-advisory services in the country."

Simon Gachuiri, Kenya Meteorological Department.

These efforts are geared toward enhancing the capacity of national and local advisory service providers to help farmers respond better to climate change. Improved data access and use by policymakers and other stakeholders will help identify market trends and weather patterns to make informed decisions about policies, plans, and strategies that affect the sector.

AICCRA is facilitating partnerships like these between the public and private sectors to improve the quality, efficiency, and bundling of climate information services for African farmers.


David Ngome, Communications Specialist, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)