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Using drones to boost agriculture in Burkina Faso

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The ambitious objective of the “Eyes in the Sky, Smart Techs on the Ground” project, initiated by the Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), is to transform agriculture in African countries through the promotion of drone usage. I took part in the project as Director General of Cargitech Sarl, alongside several other African entrepreneurs.

A day in the life of a drone operator

Following an initial meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, in July 2018, for an initiation on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and business management, CTA (in partnership with Parrot, a drone manufacturing company) invited Cargitech Sarl to attend another meeting a few kilometres outside of Cape Coast, in Ghana. The second phase of the training was focused on the practical aspects of drone operation such as piloting, gathering data and safety regulations.

The various trainings on offer has allowed us to strengthen our capabilities around the practical usage of drones. The skills learnt and the knowledge acquired on drone technology, the capturing and processing of images and the services and offers that exist in the market have changed our perceptions of professional drones. We have now become drone operators, offering farmers and organisations innovative services which aim to improve agricultural production and assist decision making. Our ability to efficiently pilot drones has improved significantly, alongside our ability to justify projects based on drone technology and to convince partners.

Cargitech Sarl, has been able to acquire a Parrot Bluegrass drone in order to strengthen our logistical ability and improve our services whilst also making them more profitable and innovative.

A remarkable tool for African agriculture

In Burkina Faso, drones are mostly considered as recreational equipment, used to take photos and videos during ceremonies. Their professional usage remains underdeveloped, while the market has potential for significant growth for suppliers of drone services who focus on agricultural and rural development projects. Thanks to the growth of agribusinesses and the influence of associations and agricultural groups, farmers are more aware of, and open to, new technologies which can help improve agricultural output. Drones are seen as a remarkable tool which can help easily obtain real-time data on land, crops, livestock and the environment.

Image capture and the gathering of key information for agronomists, researchers, farmers, environmentalists and decision makers, position drones as a truly innovative service and approach. Having already proved their worth in Europe, and also in several African countries, they can bring numerous solutions to developing markets such as Burkina Faso. Their impact on the rural economy can be measured through development projects piloted by agricultural groups and economic growth centres. We also realise that investors are relying on drones more and more to help track progress on their projects.

Developing new services with drones

Supporting African agriculture, in particular in Burkina Faso, through agricultural advice given to farmers, is a priority for Cargitech Sarl. We are convinced that drones, due to their performance, will boost agriculture. For example, they help to analyse the topography of fields, the condition of agricultural infrastructure, the health of plant-life, count plants, following agricultural production, and to improve yields.

The discovery of new drone services has changed our strategy and approach towards partners and potential clients. This has also led to business leaders integrating drones into their core activities, such as topography and planning projects. Multiple internal and external training projects are being created to help raise awareness amongst stakeholders and to promote the usage of drones.

Today, we take great satisfaction from the fact that Cargitech Sarl is continuing to develop its offer in the agricultural sector based on the usage of drones.

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Malagasy trained in the use of UAS towards national development

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Recognising the opportunities drones provide for agriculture, CTA launched the project Transforming African Agriculture: Eyes in the Sky, Smart Techs on the Ground in 2016 to provide technical assistance to start-ups across Africa.

Profiling and drones for precise farming practices

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CTA supports agricultural cooperatives and rural organisations in ACP countries, in conjunction with the Data4Ag project, in order to improve agricultural services by collecting and managing farming data. The AgriTIC project, along with the FEPA/B organisation in Burkina Faso, began in 2017 and has already profiled 2,000 farms.

Harmonising Africa’s drone regulations

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With decision EX.CL/Dec. 986-1007 (XXXII), the African Union (AU) has established one of the most important incentives for its member states – to use drones to boost Africa’s development and accelerate transformation on the continent. Indeed, drones have been used to solve many development problems in the fields of agriculture, health, infrastructure monitoring, surveying and soil mapping, among others, and have the potential to find further application.

Drones could become one of the main drivers of agricultural growth in Senegal

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Malick Diagne is the head of GeoRisk Afric, a company founded in March 2016. He attended training sessions on drone usage for precision agriculture organised by CTA and the French company, Parrot, as part of the “Eyes in the Sky” project. In this blog, using his 12 years’ experience in environmental and natural resource management, the Senegalese head of the company explains the fascinating and critical innovation opportunities that drones provide for the gathering of geospatial data.

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