"Sometimes existing structures need to be reinvented for the better”
Growing up in Tanzania, Olivier Smeenk saw that the level of impact that can be achieved through financial aid and NGO intervention is limited. He then had an idea with a solid plan, which won the I WILL Award 2016.
Low-cost weather monitoring solution
His plan for Kukua started when he was sailing in Tanzania’s Msasani Bay with a large group of other enthusiasts, including Kukua’s co-founder Tom Vanneste. “When sailing we noticed that we could gain a competitive advantage by monitoring the weather conditions, but to our surprise this data was not readily available in Tanzania,” says Olivier, adding that when they found out the majority of African countries had this issue, he and Tom decided that they needed to solve it.
Preparing for unexpected droughts and floods
Olivier and Tom saw that many farmers were not surviving the dry seasons; they did not know when to expect the rains to come due to the climate change. “We couldn’t bear witnessing this, so our plan would be to install a dense network of weather stations and to provide the data to smallholder farmers.”
Kukua was officially founded in 2015 when it received a €90,000 grant from the EU for implementing its idea. Kukua had already established a partnership with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture and installed 20 weather stations as a pilot to prove that the technology works. “We developed a full-scale web application on which our data is accessible and our devices can be monitored, as well as our required SMS service”
Growing the ecosystem
Kukua won the I WILL Award 2016, and is using the €15,000 prize money to enhance its weather service for African farmers to provide food security. “We also partnered with IHS towers in 2016, a company that will invest in our development as they require our wind and solar data, and will host our weather stations safely on their telecom tower property,” says Olivier. He adds that at the moment 60 weather stations are being installed across Northern and Southern Nigeria by Kukua’s local partners, and he plans to start providing data to customers before the end of the year.
Kukua’s mission is to install 10,000 weather stations in the next five years across Sub-Saharan Africa. For this, the organisation is working on growing the ecosystem that will support this development, including public funds, data customers, NGOs that work with smallholder farmers, and other weather data companies.
Olivier Smeenk, Dutch
BSc International Business Administration (Alumnus)
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