The Director-General, National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Dr Halilu Shaba, has stressed the need for deploying space technology, particularly Earth observation systems to drive the agricultural sector and attain sustainable development in Nigeria. He made the remark at the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Aerospace Information Research Institute, a subset of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (AIR/CAS), during a virtual meeting.
Dr Halilu Shaba further explained that the MoU is essential for granting technical assistance through a programme called ‘Crop watch-ICP’ for crop monitoring and food security. He emphasised the need for access to EO-based systems to enhance real-time monitoring, automated crop watch, and increased agricultural productivity nationally and globally.
“Presently in the country, increasing agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner to meet the growing national and global demand while adapting to a changing climate are challenges that the agricultural sectors need to overcome in the next decades. To meet these challenges, agricultural production and food systems need to undergo a profound transformation through the use of earth observation techniques and initiatives like CropWatch concept. Such transformation will support a variety of stakeholder’s decisions along the agricultural supply chains and at policy levels”
According to Dr Shaba, the current collaboration between the Chinese Academy of Sciences (AIR/CAS)and NASRDA was initiated over a year ago to help bridge the technology gap between developed and developing countries through a capacity-building initiative in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNTCAD. The Director-General expressed delight over the collaboration, saying it will undoubtedly lead to the customisation of the agricultural institution in Nigeria.
Dr Shaba also noted that “NASRDA is contributing its own quarter by carrying out research in agriculture and related field using data from NigeriaSat-1, 2 and X” He gave examples inclusive of the development of the Fadama Land Information Management System (FLIMS) to boost rice production in Nigeria in collaboration with Satellite Application Centre, South Africa. He also commented, “Nigeria does not have access to a timely national food information system due to technology deficits or costs. The paucity of adequate capacity to obtain and access up-to-date staple crop production information, which is essential for economic governance and securing food supply”, noting it was one of the nation’s agricultural challenges.
The head of the Chinese Academy of Sciences delegation, Prof. Wu Yirong, expressed happiness over the partnership and appreciated the NASRDA team’s positive development. In addition, Yirong said that Nigeria is no stranger to China as he alluded to the collaboration in the manufacture and launch of the Nigcomsat-1 and Nigcomsat-1R, which were satellite projects carried out by Nigeria and China. He reaffirmed the support of AIRCAS towards deploying aerospace systems to combat the food crises and create sustainable development for the country.
According to the NASRDA DG, the initiative has the following objectives:
- Provide support in utilizing the cloud platform for monitoring crop condition, crop stress, and production at the national to sub-national level;
- Enable relevant stakeholders, and carry out near real-time national or subnational crop monitoring;
- Customise CropWatch to meet Nigeria’s specific needs and strengthen relevant stakeholders’ capacity to identify suitable climate-resilient agricultural practices in crop production by integrating geospatial information for agricultural production.
Generally, the partnership will facilitate and stimulate agricultural monitoring to advance the SDG goal of zero hunger through joint research and capacity-building with NASRDA
Faleti Joshua is an avid lover of space in all its incomprehensible nature. He holds both an LL.B and a B.L degree. Joshua is a lover of music and a lawyer in his free time.