A free tool that will help farmers and pastoralists across Africa predict and control locust behaviour has been launched. Kuzi—the Swahili name for the wattled starling, a bird renowned for eating locusts—is a tool powered by artificial intelligence (AI). It generates a real-time heat map as well as a breeding index of these insects across Africa. Furthermore, it shows all potential migration routes.

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 Africa and other Eastern African countries. It uses deep learning to identify the formation of swarms. Kuzi then sends farmers and pastoralists free SMS alerts two to three months in advance, informing them of when locusts are most likely to attack farms in their areas.

Without preventative measures, a swarm of 80 million can consume food equivalent to that eaten by 35 000 people a day – a devastating blow to food stocks for vulnerable communities. Putting in place early detection and control measures which are critical in desert locust management, will offer farmers and pastoralists a vital tool in the fight against world hunger and food insecurity.

Alerts are currently available for Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda, in the regional languages of Kiswahili, Somali, and Amharic, spoken by over 200 million people across Eastern Africa.

Locust upsurge exacerbates food insecurity

“The first international anti-locust conference was held in Rome in 1931. Yet Africa continues to experience invasions nearly 100 years later. The worst locust invasion in 70 years occurred in 2020, which threatened food supplies for millions across Eastern Africa. There has to be a better way to do this, one that keeps the local communities central in the fight against these pests,” said John Oroko, CEO of Kuzi’s creator, Selina Wamucii.

“A new locust upsurge now threatens millions across Eastern and Southern Africa, exacerbating food insecurity for already vulnerable communities amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have a responsibility to develop and deploy locally bred solutions that address these challenges faced by our struggling rural communities,” adds Oroko.

The free tool is currently available to users in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, with plans to expand to the rest of Africa.

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, and they are good to go, without any charges. – Press release, Selina Wamucii