Business News of 2014-08-16

Ghanaian farmers to benefit from space technology

...AGRA, NASA and Image Ad collaborate on project

Ghanaian smallholder farmers will, in the not too distant future, benefit from a space technology that will immensely boost their productive capacity. The innovation is being worked on jointly by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States, and Image Ad, a Ghanaian software developing company.

Ad Image will develop software that will track and receive information from the millions of NASA space satellites about weather patterns and changes. The information will then be transmitted to the farmers through software. The information so received will aid the farmers to know ahead about weather conditions and therefore decide when to grow their crops.

The smallholder farmers have formed Farmer- based organisations (FBOs) and their leaders will be trained in the use of the technology.

Funding for the two-year project, which is expected to kick off later this year, is being provided by AGRA.

In an interview with Public Agenda in Accra, CEO of Image Ad, Kwame Bentil, expatiated that the software would track information from the satellites that sense fertile farming areas and that information would be conveyed to the farmers through their leaders. “It will determine, predict rainfall and also predict soil moisture.”

Mr Bentil said NASA had satellites that focused on Africa alone, and they were confident that they would get accurate data and information from the satellites. He said the project would be started on a pilot basis then scaled up subsequently.

Dr Kwasi Ampofo, AGRA'S Country Head in Ghana, in a separate interview, observed that one of the challenges confronting smallholder farmers in Ghana was bad weather conditions.

Most of the farmers, who mainly depend on rainfall, he said, did not know when to expect the rains in order to grow their crops so with this invention, information on weather conditions would help them know exactly when to grow their crops.

Mr Ampofo added that the information would be made available in the local dialects for farmers across the country, and this was expected to make understanding easier for the farmers who are unable to read.

Molly E. Brown, Research Scientist, NASA-Goddard Space Flight Centre Greenbelt, also in a separate interview with Public Agenda, underscored that NASA had many satellites that captured a lot of information around the globe.

“We can use them [satellites] to understand how this year's growing season is developing and how different it was last year and twenty years ago.”

Ms Brown also indicated that NASA started putting up satellites in the 1970s and now has 30 years of satellites observation of many countries, including Ghana and Kenya.

“My job is to use all this science knowledge to provide the information to institutions like AGRA to allow the society to benefit and ensure their dreams are realised,” she said.

Source: Public Agenda
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