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Africa Report


VOL.5 September 2013
Bring on the Rain
Cloud seeding now a viable option for combating drought
By Gitonga Njeru

With climate change contributing to the ongoing droughts that ravage Africa, countries on the continent are now turning to an efficient technique that ensures ample rainfall and increases agricultural output in arid areas.

The technique in question is known as cloud seeding and produces artificial rain. Kenya, Mali, South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Egypt and Ghana have the most advanced systems in Africa in regard to cloud seeding.

This induced rain boosts food security and assists in saving lives which otherwise could have been lost to drought. This decade Kenya experienced serious droughts in 2005, 2009 and 2011.

The process uses ground rockets that fire chemicals, such as calcium chloride, dry ice or silver iodide, into the atmosphere. They act as condensers and encourage the formation of precipitation, bringing artificial rain.

Peter Ambenje, who heads up drought monitoring at the Kenya Meteorological Department in Nairobi, said that cloud seeding was the only option to ending dry seasons, according to a feasibility study by the department, which has a dedicated section focusing only on cloud seeding. There are more advantages and very few risks in the weather modification technology.

"This is part of Kenya's Vision 2030 Project of making the country newly industrialized by that year. The use of available technologies to solve problems is the center of [our] focus. We are also in the process of increasing the snow cover on Mount Kenya [Africa's second highest mountain standing over 17,000 feet above sea level]," said Ambenje.

Kenya joins 20 other countries in the world that have already embraced cloud seeding. The United States was the first country to use cloud seeding in 1950 in the State of Utah. Weather modification technology was introduced in China in 1958. Zheng Guoguang, head of the China Meteorological Administration, said last year that weather modification technology is crucial to China as about 70 percent of natural disasters in China are caused by weather.

"Apart from using cloud seeding to fight drought, we are also in the process of using it to reduce hailstorms, which have caused plenty of destruction in the tea growing areas of Kenya. It is the second time the country will be using cloud seeding. The first time was in the early 60s," Ambenje said.

With over 3.2 million people going hungry and in need of food aid in 2011, the Kenyan Government is weighing options to avoid similar disasters. The government also hopes that with the technology, it will prevent the increased food prices associated with drought.

"If you notice in 2011, the drought was one of the worst in the country since 1933, food prices shot up as a result of less food and high costs of imports. Inflation shot up to about 18 percent. Surely, we do not want a repeat of the same," said Professor Germano Mwabu, an economist at the University of Nairobi.

Cloud seeding has more advantages than disadvantages. The only disadvantage is that rain may not fall where the cloud originally was located, according to Ambenje.

The Vision 2030 paper has many development agendas for the country, including better health care, better infrastructure, innovation, and other initiatives. The initiatives aim to transform Kenya into a newly industrialized country by 2030. Cloud seeding has been included in the program.

"I can tell you that in the next rainy season, lasting October to November, not all areas will experience low rainfall. But the national average, overall, will be lower in some locations. We plan to conduct cloud seeding mostly in the North Eastern region of Kenya, which has a history of serious drought," said Ambenje, who added that cloud harvesting must be done before the dry season as no clouds form in the dry months and farmers would be advised when to plant crops in late August.

"Climate change has prompted us to look for other alternatives [to deal with drought] especially the ones that embrace adaptation," Ambenje said.

Kenya has the most advanced scientific facilities in the region to conduct cloud seeding. CA

(Reporting from Kenya)





Africa Report
Embattled Newest Nation
-Climate Relief
-Land Grab Woes
-Bring on the Rain
-Depending on a Diaspora
China-Africa New Strategic Partnership and Friendship for Development and Transformation
-BRICS Means Business
-Cameroon Aims for More Chinese Visitors
-Greening International Relations
-Switch Off Your Lights, Help The Planet
Nation in Focus
-November 2010
-September 2010
-June 2010
-May 2010
News Roundup
-September 2013
-August 2013
-July 2013
-June 2013
-May 2013





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