New technologies can help increase agricultural production and productivity and reduce risk, such as damages caused by pests and diseases or floods and droughts. Information derived from satellites is especially useful for this. Thanks to new types of satellites, such as those provided by Europe’s Copernicus programme, images are more accurate, taken more frequently and available for free.
African experts have the capacity to exploit this opportunity and develop innovative services based on the new technology. The so-called AfriCultuReS project “Enhancing Food Security in African agricultural systems with the support of remote sensing” is a European cooperation between African and European companies and institutions to improve food security with the help of satellite information. African partners on the project represent Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Mozambique, Rwanda, and the Sahara and Sahel regions. The project is supported by the European Commission and the Group on Earth Observations, an international organisations of which many African countries are members.
The project partners met in Thessaloniki, Greece, on May 20 and 21 to discuss future plans. Seven main service categories were identified:
- On climate: to improve climate predictions, seasonal climate early warning and climate adaptation advice;
- On crops: to improve crop condition monitoring and yield forecasts;
- On droughts: to improve drought early warning and forecasts;
- On land: to provide advice on avoiding land degradation and to improve soil condition assessment;
- On livestock: to improve grazing and rangeland monitoring, browsing capacity assessment and identification of available water sources for livestock;
- On water: to improve monitoring of water availability and productivity, crop water requirements assessment and soil moisture monitoring.
- On weather: to improve (local) weather forecasts and extreme weather early warning.
Although it is already complicated to develop these services technically, bringing solutions to the market takes even more time: needing a period of ten years to do this is not uncommon. That’s why the AfriCultuReS partners started the discussion of teaming up with potential clients right away. If solutions are created not only for, but also with clients, market readiness can be achieved quicker and more easily.
Developing services for and with regional governments, such as county, provincial or district governments is an interesting option. Fulfilling the agricultural potential is a priority for local government and by improving the analysis and prediction of potential yields and monitoring of actual yields, useful intelligence for improving agricultural policy can be delivered.
The private sector is another good partner. Working with input suppliers, buyers, sellers and the processing industry can lead to an interesting bundling of services that benefit farmers and that are economically feasible. With financial institutions, products can be developed that reduce the risks of providing (micro-) credit, possibly coupled with the delivery of index insurance products that are based on satellite information.
What will happen next? First the technical solutions will have to be worked out more in detail and tailored to the needs of each local context. To do that. pilots will be carried out in Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, South Africa, Ghana, Niger, Tunisia and Ethiopia. Although a lot of information can be derived from satellites, gathering information on the ground for validation and calibration is indispensable.
In parallel a chain of workshop will be organised in these countries to engage with partners, to finetune the users’ needs assessment, co-design the final portfolio of services as well as to create capacities among users and stakeholders, following a truly South-South and North-South collaboration. Expect an update on developments and results in the next few moths!
AfriCultuReS Project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 774652
The Authority on News, Data and Market Analysis for the African Space Industry.