At the Alliance Girls’ High School (AGHS) is a visible demonstration of how teachers are using automatic weather stations as part of their course curriculum. A crowd of students gathers around a fenced area. Inside is a beta weather station designed by the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO) and METER Group, Inc. USA, formerly Decagon Devices.
“How does this measure the wind?” the teacher asks. The instructor points to an ultrasonic anemometer mounted to a pole that uses sound traveling with and against the wind to tell the wind speed and direction. A data logger sits next to it and collects data from a group of environmental sensors. Nearby several students assemble a radiation shield over a temperature/relative humidity sensor.
AGHS is one of a growing number of Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) schools selected to host TAHMO weather stations. TAHMO works with governments and local schools to bring climate data to data-starved areas.
Students can use the data for their educational needs. The TAHMO and GLOBE School-2-School program builds students’ capacities for science and technology at an early age. Schools also offer a source of security for the stations. So far, TAHMO has deployed over a hundred of stations in schools in the African nations of Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
“By having data and us, teachers, teaching the students how to correlate and analyze and interpolate data, it stimulates their minds towards being researchers,” said Victor Ogal, GLOBE teacher at the Nasokol Girls Secondary School. Ogal has also noticed that many of his students now want to be scientists. He explained, “They would want to research; they would want to know the causes; they would want to know the trends.”
On-site climate monitoring lets students analyze local weather and compare local school environments to partner schools around the world. For many students, it is the first time they are able to get data from the ground in near real time.
Evans Nyagwala, GLOBE teacher at Musaria Secondary School in Kenya, said, “We were privileged to get a TAHMO weather station.” He added, “The data we get from the weather station is real data. That’s important in the sense that students are not living in the past; they’re understanding the environment they are living in at the present.”
Data students collect aren’t just used in the classroom. Local smallholder farmers use the data to make crop decisions on when to plant and when harvest.
A smallholder farmer in Kenya said the TAHMO weather station lets him focus and prepare appropriately. “If I’m planning for cabbages, for example, and I’m very sure this rain will spoil the cabbage, I’ll avoid that,” he explained. “That to me could be a loss, then I’ll go for a crop which will benefit me as per the weather focus or weather status is at that time.”
Compared to the world average of 26.8 percent, 43.2 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is younger than 15. By 2040, 11 million Africans will enter the workforce every year. Many of these students will enter the field of agriculture. Gains in education will also contribute to the continent’s economic growth. To learn more about the TAHMO program and ways to become involved, visit: http://www.metergroup.com/meter_casestudies/tahmo/.