Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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Vihiga set to digitize agriculture

Food security has been a major problem in the western part of the country for decades thanks to steady natural population increase.

This phenomenon has prompted Vihiga Governor, Dr Wilber Ottichilo, who is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) expert, to find a way of tackling the situation.

Dr Ottichilo said the ever-increasing population has consequently exerted pressure on land available for agricultural activities.

“The land has continuously been sub-divided through generations and currently most households own less than an acre of land which is inadequate for commercial agricultural production,” he stated.

As a remedy to the sorry state of affairs, the County Government has partnered with a consortium of companies in a bid to digitize agriculture.

He said they have partnered with Kenyan and European companies including Locate IT (Kenyan), Airbus, ITK and GE-Data (French) through the Kenyan Innovation Low Input Maize Production (KILIMO) project and have used satellite imaging to do land mapping of the county.

The satellite imagery has been used to establish land sizes, to predict the weather as well as monitor the crop growth at various stages to detect deficiencies so as to carry out appropriate intervention for optimal production.

The county head said KILIMO initiative applies the Precision Agriculture (PA) approach where data is used to ensure that the crop receives the correct amount of inputs such as water, fertilizers and pesticides at the appropriate time.

Patrick Armengaud from ITK stated that due to reducing land sizes, PA is the way to go in order to realize maximum returns from farming activities. Under PA, he explained, a farmer could certainly estimate the yield of maize at 10 90-kg sacks of maize per quarter an acre.

He said in the past eight months, they have piloted with 1,200 farmers in four wards in Hamisi Sub County and they will ultimately cover all the 25 wards in the county next year.

Armengaud added that digitization of agricultural production has long taken root in the developed economies and they are now spreading it to Africa.

Marie Christine of Airbus company said they execute the project by sharing geospatial statistics and other satellite generated information with the extension officers who then pass the same to the farmers.

“The extension officers share information with farmers through text messaging on the smart phones,” she stated.

Christine said they carry out soil tests and record climate change information so as to be able to appropriately advise the farmers on the correct seeds’ varieties and other inputs.

She said they have started with maize because it is the staple food crop in the region but the technology is applicable to other crops.

By Sammy Mwibanda

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