KIGALI, June 15 (IPS) – A few years ago, after conceiving a project to launch the first-ever unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in Rwanda, entrepreneur Mamy Muziga Ingabire identified the need to provide farmers with information related to their activities – such as the health status of crops.
“The main focus has been to use drone technology to support smallholder farmers in increasing their productivity,” Muziga told IPS in a recent interview.
Muziga is the general manager of CHARIS Unmanned Vehicle Solutions, one of the Rwanda-based companies providing drone-based solutions.
Several solutions and applications have been introduced to provide Rwandan farmers with innovative technology to access information about climate change, crop health and diseases affecting them in a timely manner so that they can make informed decisions. The use of ICT gives farmers more access to market information, the weather and nutrition.
Several solutions were developed during the implementation phase, including the project for nitrogen fertilization of wheat crops using drone technology in Musanze, a district of Northern Rwanda.
A drone with fixed cameras and sensors is sent over the field, taking accurate images of the plantations and the land and collecting accurate data. This data provides specific indicators that enable operators to know the health of the crop and what fertilizer it needs to grow well.
While entrepreneurs and civil servants reap the benefits that small farmers enjoy by using these technological solutions for a sustainable food value chain; researchers say it’s important to raise awareness about what these technologies can mean for actors in agricultural value chains.
The importance of science, technology and innovation (STI) as a key driver of African integration was the main topic of a recent scientific conference in Kigali, Rwanda, where researchers, members of the private sector, civil society and farmers’ organizations from across Africa .
The conference focused on new applications such as drones, precision farming and mobile applications or other hardware systems to automate redundant processes and reduce dependence on human labor in the agricultural value chain.
To bridge the gaps in STI policy and practice to transform agricultural development and food systems within the continent, researchers agreed that the current effects of climate change on food security in Africa should not allow anyone to relax.
dr. Canisius Kanangire, the executive director of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), noted that agriculture in Africa is characterized by low productivity, which is reflected in insufficient food production.
“We need to find innovative solutions to the key issues affecting food systems (…) Climate change continues to have a growing impact on the African continent, hitting the most vulnerable the hardest and contributing to food insecurity,” said Dr. . Kanangire vs IPS.
As researchers strive to improve the use and adoption of productivity-enhancing technologies, value-adding processes and loss-reduction practices among smallholder farmers in Africa, some food systems experts believe that scaling these innovative solutions remains a challenge.
“It’s not just up to the scientific community to develop solutions, but there’s a way to see how end users can interact with these technologies,” said Claver Ruzindaza, an agricultural extension officer in Kigali.
With current efforts to deliver hi-tech services through public and private partnerships, researchers are seeking to equip smallholder farmers in Africa with knowledge of agronomic techniques and skills to improve their productivity, food security and livelihoods using innovative technologies.
“We need to change this narrative that keeps the farmer in poverty status to a point where a farmer is always synonymous with a poor person,” Kanangire said.
Despite the enormous agricultural potential, the most recent estimates from the African Development Bank indicate that African countries have some of the most common malnutrition in the world. Official reports show that of the approximately 795 million people who suffer from chronic malnutrition worldwide, 220 million live in Africa.
Nevertheless, AAFT has developed seed varieties that are more productive and more resistant to diseases and droughts, which could increase farm productivity and food availability on the continent, has been carried out in Malawi and Zimbabwe, while it is currently being expanded in Uganda and Ghana.
Martin Bwalya, acting director for knowledge management and program evaluation at the Africa Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), told IPS that Africa needs to adopt innovations to reduce dependence on food imports.
“The continent is very vulnerable because we import a lot. Nearly 30 percent of the continent’s food is imported,” said Bwalya.
As current efforts are aimed at reducing the resource disruptions caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine, experts in Kigali unanimously recognized the importance of promoting intra-African trade. Growing Africa’s agricultural sectors by using innovative solutions to help smallholder farmers become more productive has been critical.
“This agricultural transformation in Africa requires the concerted effort of all stakeholders, including policy makers, researchers, the private sector and farmers,” Kanangire said.
Report of the IPS UN Office
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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service