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Norwegians to build capacity in weather information

The Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development (NORHED) has launched a new project aimed at improving human resource in the field of meteorology.

The five-year project, Improving Weather Information Management in East Africa, using suitable ICTs (WIMEA-ICT), will focus on extensive research in Makerere University’s colleges of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS), Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), and the Meteorology Unit under the college of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The project is expected to cost about Norwegian Kroner 18m (Shs 7.4bn).

“Capacity building is one of the project’s components and will present scholarship opportunities for five interdisciplinary PhDs and 20 Masters of Science. In addition, customised ICT short courses for practising meteorologists will be offered,” said Dr Julianne Sansa-Otim, the project’s overall coordinator, during the WIMEA-ICT kickoff meeting held at Emin Pasha hotel recently.

She added that the project also entails conducting curriculum reviews and development of new curricula for universities. The call for applicants for the PhD courses was slated to be out last December, while the MSc is expected to start in 2014/2015.

The meeting drew project partners from Makerere University, University of Bergen, Norway (UiB), Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology and Uganda government’s department of Meteorology.

The WIMEA-ICT project that started last December seeks to improve accuracy and timeliness of and access to weather information by the communities in East Africa. It will use Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF), a flexible, state-of-the-art atmospheric simulation system available on parallel computing platforms to build weather prediction models.

Prof Joachim Reuder from UiB said WRF was going to improve the accuracy of weather forecasts in addition to availing them in a timely manner.

The project’s other components include establishing operational Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) models for the original three East African countries (Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania); creating reliable, accurate and well-formatted weather data repositories; improving weather information dissemination systems to present relevant and suitably packaged information to different stakeholders.

“We shall adopt a mechanism for ensuring that we alert, inform and help end-users interpret and use this information,” Dr Benjamin Kanagwa noted, adding that they would also set up village committees and teams of indigenous knowledge expert on weather information in selected pilot villages.

Dr Kanagwa is a senior lecturer at CoCIS. The Principal of CoCIS, Assoc Prof Constant Okello-Obura, noted that the project was one of the avenues through which the college was using its expertise to provide ICT solutions and innovations to propel development in Uganda and the region.

The project will mainly be implemented in the agricultural, energy, water resources, disaster management, fishing, health, mining, aviation, defence and construction sectors to improve productivity.

ninsiima@observer.ug

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