Earth observation in agriculture in the Country has been a game changer in the agricultural sector more so instrumental in the fight against climate change
By monitoring changes in land use and vegetation cover, farmers are able to quickly respond to changing weather patterns to ensure that their crops can withstand and adapt to erratic rainfall patterns.
Most Farmers are now tapping into the power of digital technology to boost crop yields and improve food security.
Thanks to a groundbreaking program called Digital Earth Africa (DE Africa), the farmers now have access to up-to-date satellite imagery and other earth observation data that can help them make informed decisions about everything from crop selection, planting times to even harvesting .
Speaking during a deep dive meeting for information for agriculture and food security project in Kenya , Dr. Kenneth Mubea , User Management Manager of the Digital Earth Africa said that the programme funded by the Australian government is to empower small scale farmers to get timely information which they in turn can use to improve the yield crop productivity
The programme , he added builds capacities of governments, academia, civil society, private sector and leaves no one behind especially small scale farmers/
“Our special focus today is food and agriculture security and funded by Australian centre for international agricultural research to empower small scale farmers to get timely information and therefore improve on their productivity”.
Using DE Africa platform, Dr. Mubea explained that the programme started in 2019 with the initial pilot being in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone but now the DE Africa programme with more funding the Australia government intends to scale down to all the countries in the African continent.
In Kenya, he specifically said that they have partnered with the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) covering 20 member states from Eastern and Southern Africa.
“This is a programme on information for food and agriculture and water nexus to empower small scale farmers so that all institutions working around the farmer can have timely information for farmers and farmers in turn be able to plan for their planting , harvesting and how to connect with markets with different partners”, D. Mubea said .
DE Africa, he added is working with Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) who have membership of all agricultural research institutions including KALRO and who identify farmer organization and youth program that can be able to connect with the farmers.
“ we are building capacity of the agricultural research institutions and youth organizations such as youth mappers who can provide information to farmers, he said adding that “ DE Africa is all about platform . “ We believe you might go alone and go faster but if we all go together as a village we can go further”.
According to Dr, Mubear, the benefits of DE Africa are not limited to individual farmers. Government agencies, NGOs, and other organizations are also using the data to inform policy decisions and coordinate relief efforts in times of drought or other emergencies.
Rose Muchichu, Founder and Director of Growers Information Hub said she has been working with small scale farmers enabling them to access information using the hub.
She explained that in 2019 she engaged farmers in Nakuru County to understand the gap on access to information especially on pests and disease and what she found out was that out of the 53 farmers they interviewed, only 2 were using the internet to access information.
“Seeing the gap, we had to bring in the youth and working with the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) to get scientifically correct information for the farmers” she said.
The youth are tech -savvy and most of them have smartphones helping their parents access information, Muchichu said and thus they have linked the the youth into the programme by asking them to map the field and advise farmers with correct information needed.
“The Youth map the farms, and each youth is assigned around 15 to 20 farmers based on the area and they are able to guide the farmers with information that they have gotten from the agronomists and extension workers who help them in giving the right information”, she added
She gave an example of the youth using platform such as the vegetation index and be able to predict either on maturity , production , weather or even harvesting and this is assisting farmers.
According to experts, even as Kenya and other African countries continue to grapple with the challenges of climate change and food insecurity, programs like DE Africa will be critical in helping them build resilience and achieve sustainable development.
By harnessing the power of earth observation data, farmers and policy makers alike can work towards a brighter future for all.
DE Africa is a collaborative initiative led by the African Union Commission and supported by the European Space Agency, the Australian government, and other partners. Its goal is to provide African countries with free and open access to satellite data and other geospatial information that can support sustainable development and resource management.
By Wangari Ndirangu