Dr Muthoni Masinde, senior lecturer and Head of ICT at the Central University of Technology in the Free State, received top honours at the annual Women in Science Awards that took place in August this year.
You may wonder what that has to do with a programme like Ulwazi, but Dr Masinde, who grew up in a rural village, has cleverly combined local indigenous knowledge about weather patterns with her knowledge of technology to create an award-winning drought prediction tool – a tool which has special relevance in South Africa at the moment. With the country in the midst of El Niño, the dry conditions have wreaked havoc on farmers crops; the work of Dr Masinde could help to better equip small scale farmers, who currently produce about 70% of South Africa’s agricultural output.
Through her project Dr Masinde has integrated indigenous knowledge, much of which hasn’t been recorded previously, with tools like wireless networks and cell phones. She explains how it’s possible can predict drought through the behaviour of plants and insects : “From observing dragon flies (farmers) know that if they fly one meter above the ground, rain will come in a week’s time, or if a particular tree flowers in the month of May, rain will come in three weeks”.
This bridge between African indigenous knowledge and modern science has been coined ITIKI (Information Technology and Indigenous Knowledge with Intelligence) and it’s something that we hope to see a lot more of!
Image courtesy of www.timeslive.co.za