Using SMS of ocean conditions, the HD-led project Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) is saving lives and the property of fishermen in Ghana. After registering their telephone numbers, fishermen automatically receive early warnings and alert information derived from satellites via their mobile phones. The messages are simple numbers ranging from 1 to 4:
When I receive number 4, I know what to do. The sea wave is dangerous; I have to decide not to go out for fishing. Otherwise, I may lose my life and fishing boat.
— fisherman in Accra, Ghana
The ECOWAS Coastal and Marine Resources Management Centre located in the University of Ghana, in collaboration with the Ministry of Fisheries in Ghana through the MESA Project has started sending out ocean condition information derived from satellite to selected fishermen via SMS as a pilot.
Not all fishermen will be able to read text, but they can all read numbers. The numbers are chosen following a series of awareness meetings with selected fishermen in Ghana.
— Dr Mamadou Niane, Technical Expert to the project in the University of Ghana
Based on the feedback of the awareness meeting, the figures and interpretations are easily understood by both illiterate and literate people. For instance, a fisherman who receives a number 1, understands that the sea is calm and he/she can decide to go out fishing. However, if they receive number 2, 3 and 4, it means that the sea could be rough, very rough or dangerous. The alert messages sent through SMS are helping the selected fishing communities in Ghana.
From the feedback that we are getting from our sample users, so far the results are promising. The future plan is to scale up this experience in the other ECOWAS Member States.
— Dr George Wiafe, Director of the MESA ECOWAS Marine Thematic Action within the University of Ghana
Programming software to code wave height forecasts is used to predict the ocean state. The message distribution to a list of phone numbers is then performed using SMS software. So far, 1000 mobile phone numbers of fishermen have been registered. The University of Ghana is one of the regional implementing centers of the MESA Project. The next phase of this project will seek to synchronise the SMS numbers with the colour of flags used in most beneficiaries’ countries in western Africa. The University of Ghana, through the MESA project, will continue to provide forecasts of the ocean’s weather and support fisheries resource management for the ECOWAS region.