Introduction: It is estimated that five thousand people die on Lake Victoria every year by drowning which is triggered by severe weather hazards like lightning.
Objectives: In order to improve predictability of severe weather conditions on Lake Victoria, there is need to deliver timely and effective Severe Weather Early Warning Systems (SWEWS) to those at risk. On Lake Victoria, previous SWEW service trials ceased with the end of the funding grants. This study therefore assessed the possibility of sustaining the SWEW service by assessing willingness to pay.
Methods: An assessment was conducted between March and May 2015 to determine the SWEW service improvements desired by the population. A convenience sample of respondents was gathered and interviewed during impromptu visits to landing sites on Lake Victoria. The respondents were also among community members that had earlier participated in a pilot assessing the feasibility of mobile phones is delivering SWEW alerts. Semi-structured questionnaires were administered to fishermen and fisher folks at the landing site to gather suggestions/strategies for (i) better design and implementation of SWEW service, (ii) use of smart phones, and (iii) their ability and willingness to pay for a SWEW service. Results were presented as frequencies.
Results: Two hundred fifteen respondents from fourteen landing sites (communities) were interviewed. Over 50% of the respondents (113/215) were aware about at least one community member who had been injured due to lightening on the lake in the past year. Ninety two percent (198/215) of the respondents reported using mobile phones as their main tool of communication but only 4% had smart phones that could receive early warning weather alerts through internet connectivity. Seventy five percent of respondents said they would welcome a system that could deliver commercial weather alerts and 65% were willing to pay for such a service.
Conclusions: A SWEW service is feasible in this community but must be accompanied with public education on risk, a design that can fit the basic phone functionality and a system that the community majority will be willing to pay for on a continuing basis as a sustainability plan/strategy for an early warning system. This will enable timely dissemination of severe weather alerts and reduce risk of drowning on lakes among fishing communities.