In Summary
  • The agricultural sector is one of the beneficiaries of innovations that seek to address production, climate resilience, pests, diseases and yields.
  • The four-year project would be implemented in Tunisia, Niger, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Africa and Kenya.

The advent of information, communication technologies have seen the rise of innovations – mostly mobile phone applications – touted as the panacea of social and economic problems that Africa face.

The agricultural sector is one of the beneficiaries of innovations that seek to address production, climate resilience, pests, diseases and yields.

However, most of the solutions have come a cropper as the food insecurity persists and the adverse effects of climate change, such as floods and drought, take a toll on the continent.

EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES

To address the disconnect between emerging technologies and end-user adoption, a European Union Horizon 2020-funded project Enhancing Food Security and Agricultural Systems in Africa using Remote Sensing (AfriCultuReS) seeks to develop an information platform based on earth observation data to boost farming and decision-making in the sector.

"Creation of these apps based on earth observation is relatively recent. There has been a real spike in these kinds of applications over the last decade or so. What has been around for a bit longer is the use of ICTs to achieve development objectives. So there is a huge research literature on the use of ICT for development,” he said.

"Unfortunately what that literature shows is that a lot of this ICT for development projects don't work. There are a lot of failed projects that did not achieve objectives and ambitions they set out to achieve," Rose Pritchard of UK-based University of Sheffield, the lead partner in user requirements assessment for the project, told participants of a workshop on the project in Nairobi two weeks ago.”

MISTAKES

What's great, she added, is that “we can learn from that literature in terms of developing applications based on earth observation. We can avoid making the same mistakes."
The available data, said Ms Pritchard, has led to the development of principles for digital development and set up best practice guidelines in satellite and earth observation.

LocateIT Ltd, a space and geomatics company based in Nairobi, the local partner for the four-year project led by Spain-based company GMV, organised the second user requirements workshop in Nairobi two weeks ago, which brought together earth observation and space experts, partners, downstream users as well as end-users to chart the way forward for the development of an effective geo-based information system for the agricultural sector.

The four-year project would be implemented in Tunisia, Niger, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Africa and Kenya.

"The project has engaged a large number of African institutions with a common goal of achieving food security in sub-Saharan Africa through the use of technology," said Juan Suárez Beltrán of GMV.

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