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Leading the way in satellite data services

August 3, 2017

CTA has invested over €150,000 to investigate the technical and business feasibility of satellite data-enabled irrigation advisory services in Ghana, as it takes the lead in formulating a 'big proposal' to develop a project along similar lines to its Market-led User-owned ICT4AG-enabled Information Service (MUIIS) project in Uganda.

The proposed service relies on satellite images to help improve farm yields by providing farmers with timely information on weather conditions, nutrient requirements and humidity, for example. In order to achieve this, CTA has brought together a consortium of five partners, including Farmerline Ghana Limited – to provide the communication services at the end of the chain; eLEAF BV – in charge of the optical satellite data; and SarVision – responsible for the radar satellite data. The project will also work with the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, who are ultimately responsible for the end users (Ghanaian farmers).

As part of the pilot project, which covers a number of irrigation schemes in Ghana, an inception workshop was recently organised by CTA in Accra. The workshop sought to engage the full range of stakeholders involved in the project, including farmer leaders, input dealers, and financial service providers, to define/refine a project strategy that addresses the key challenges various end users currently face. Discussions focused on the demand for more efficient water irrigation systems, better access and use of appropriate inputs – such as improved seed and fertiliser, better access to financial services and stronger linkages between the key players in both the input and output markets.

CTA is keen to ensure that the interests and requirements of investors are also taken into account in the design of this project, with the intention of building a business that will be self-sustaining long after the project grant runs out. To strengthen the business model of the proposal, CTA and Farmerline have met with a number of interested large input manufacturers as well as output aggregators, such as Yara Ghana Limited, and are discussing opportunities for collaboration with the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association of Ghana. "We are exploring an interesting model through this rich network of organisations and farmers, who see agriculture as a business and are poised to influence smallholder farmers to aspire to become award winning business leaders one day," explains Dr Benjamin Addom, Programme Coordinator at CTA.

With financial support from the Dutch government's Geodata for Agriculture and Water grant programme – which will bring the total budget for the big proposal up to approximately €4.5 m – the project is expected to reach 300,000 farmers with at least 50% choosing to adopt the information products. In Sudan and Uganda similar satellite data-based advisory services have already been rolled out to farmers, including CTA's MUIIS project, resulting in increases in crop yields of well over 200%. Addom recognises the potential of this technology to transform agriculture, labelling it "a game changer", stating that CTA intends to continue working at the forefront of development to scale out the use of remote sensing technologies to farmers in ACP regions. Working alongside both public and private sector partners towards this end, CTA aims to ensure reduced poverty and increased food security in the wake of changing climate variabilities.