According to the news report by Sierra Leone Press, the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), in collaboration with the Aerospace Information Research Institute Chinese Academy of Science (AIRCAS) and supported by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Alliance of International Science Organisations (ANSO) have begun the implementation of Crop-Watch Nigeria Innovative Programme aimed at revolutionising agricultural practices and enhancing food security in Nigeria.
The Crop-Watch programme is China’s leading agricultural monitoring system, using remote sensing and ground observation data to evaluate crop growth, yield and related information at the national and global levels. ector through the CropWatch Innovative Cooperation Programme (CropWatch ICP). The Programme’s implementation in Nigeria emerged from a 2022 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between NASRDA and AIRCAS with the aim of enhancing the agricultural sector.
As part of the programme’s kick-off plan, NASRDA organised a workshop to equip participants with the necessary skills for collecting and interpreting agricultural data. The programme’s objectives align with the broader mission of the country, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in realising the zero-hunger agenda. In addition, the programme also provides access to a timely food information system, enhancing crop production through the application of space science and technology.
According to the Director-General of NASRDA, Dr Halilu Shaba, “Examining the positive impact of Crop-Watch in China highlights the critical role of information in ensuring the precision and maximum benefits of agriculture. We have agreed on the importance of adopting this methodology to provide essential data to farmers, enabling us to offer guidance to the general public and government on attainable objectives. The goal is to facilitate training and customisation, aligning the programme with Nigeria’s unique agricultural landscape and initiatives,’’ he said.
The Strategic Space Application Department Director, Dr Adepoju Matthew, highlighted that the zero-hunger SDG goal can only be achieved by integrating space-based technologies. “Within the framework of Crop-Watch, our satellite conducts thorough surveys when passing over the country, collecting data on vegetation. This data enables us to assess the diverse range of crops cultivated in Nigeria, evaluate crop health, gauge weather conditions, analyse soil types, and more.’’
The Associate Professor of AIRCAS, Miao Zhang, stated that the data will be used as a set and validation to prove the programme’s validity and agricultural practices. “This training will focus on data collection in support of GVG (an agricultural information collection app) smartphone apps, which will be used for high-resolution crop mapping,’’.
The Coordinator of Crop-Watch Nigeria, Dr Rakiya Babamaaji, revealed that a dedicated platform for the Nigerian Crop-Watch was in progress. This platform is designed to offer everyone comprehensive access to remote sensing-based agricultural monitoring information. She further explained that the platform would provide high-resolution data on land use and land cover, serving as a valuable resource for early warning activities in the country. “The training will help participants understand how to interpret this data and translate it to local farmers’’. Furthermore, she indicated that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security is central to the initiative. In early 2024, the ministry will conduct training sessions for agricultural extension workers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) focused on agricultural monitoring and data interpretation.
According to Mr John Itodo, Deputy Director, Agric Research, Planning and Policy Coordination, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, “The last meeting was to see how many crops will be covered under the Crop-Watch, and we agreed on maise, rice, sorghum and millet. For now, we will try to see how much of the crops can be covered in this monitoring, and once we get it, it will help us in data collection.