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Challenges of school-based rainfall monitoring program

Challenges of school-based rainfall monitoring program
Context
Pratistha Bhurtel - ISET Nepal
Pratistha Bhurtel

Uncontrolled urbanization and anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases are threatening our environment by causing fluctuation in rainfall, temperature, and other climatic parameters. The first steps to control this deterioration of our environment are collection, interpretation, and forecasting of meteorological data.
The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) runs more than 300 functional meteorological stations generating data related to temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction. Unfortunately, these DHM stations are not enough to collect much needed meteorological data from across the country. Especially, during the monsoon season, which spans from June to September and when Nepal receives 79.6% of total rainfall, these stations aren’t sufficient to collect data that can be used to forecast long-term precipitation trends.
However, installing rain gauges, a low-cost way to measure rainfall, in many places areas across Nepal could be an efficient way to generate a rainfall database to carry out climate trend analysis.

Citizen Science Program

I have been very lucky to be able to be involved in Community Rainfall Measurement (CORAM-Nepal), a citizen science program that facilitates precipitation data collection and is supported by ISET-NEPAL and RECHAM Consult. CORAM–Nepal’s objectives are to train teachers and students to correctly install rain gauges and measure rainfall data to utilize for local farming. Currently, a pilot program is being carried out in Kathmandu and Ramechap districts. Rain gauges have already been installed in 25 schools in Kathmandu and 1 school in Ramechap, where students monitor daily rainfall data.
The idea of establishing these local rainfall stations targeting students is an innovative approach that has provided a hands-on learning process for the students to learn about collecting and measuring daily rainfall data. At the same time, this data can also be used to measure long-term rainfall trends.

Learning

As a part of this program, I got an opportunity to gain experience in data collection, acquisition, and management processes of school-based rainfall station program. Specifically, it helped me understand and deal with challenges of implementing such programs.
One of the major challenges I encountered was the lack of willingness of school administrators to engage their students. The success of programs such as this is dependent on the willingness of all stakeholders; proper guidance and monitoring from teachers are critical to ensure the participation of the students and to achieve the goals of this initiative.
However, from my observation, I realized that many administrators weren’t willing to dedicate their students’ time towards this program. It seems like the incentive of hands-on learning about a scientific process isn’t enough to lure these administrators to support this initiative. Perhaps, providing a direct incentive for participating in CORAM–Nepal might help.

Ways forward

Initiation and getting full support of teachers and school staff would help students understand why the program is important to their learning and how they can contribute to large science by being a citizen scientists. Paying attention to and resolving the incentive issue at this early stage will ensure that this worthwhile program will be a great success when implemented in a larger scale. I would suggest providing a small token of appreciation to schools to make the program more alluring to school administrations. Gamifying the program by rewarding the schools that continue rainfall measurement for a period of time might also help.