By Esther Ndumi Ngumbi
African scientists are about to get unprecedented access to monumental quantities of satellite tv for pc knowledge. This is thanks to a deal signed by the African Union with the European Commission’s Copernicus programme, which describes itself because the world’s third largest knowledge supplier.
Data, and entry to good reliable data, is changing into an more and more vital device for science. It will help guide and support decisions in agriculture. These embrace the best way meals is produced, the way it strikes alongside the meals chain, and the best way it is saved to keep away from meals wastage and losses.
In North America, Australia and Europe, big batches of information are getting used to assess the whole lot from the health of farmers’ soil to how shifting weather patterns would possibly have an effect on crops.
The knowledge generated by Copernicus’s satellites contains digital imagery of vegetation, soil and water cowl, sea and land floor temperature, and climate patterns. All of this info will help African nations tremendously. With the proper knowledge and cautious evaluation, the continent can tackle its declining soil health, in addition to the threats of local weather change and invasive insect pests equivalent to the autumn armyworm.
But it isn’t simply scientists who stand to profit from the AU’s take care of the European Commission. It shall be vital to use Copernicus’s copious knowledge to correctly advise smallholder farmers and to assist information pest monitoring efforts throughout the continent.
Equipping farmers with data
Smallholder farmers depend upon rain fed agriculture, in order that they’re particularly weak to Africa’s altering local weather. They’re not financially ready to entry climate-smart improvements equivalent to drip irrigation. This is why it is so essential for them to get data prematurely of crop planting season. With knowledge, they will be taught early about what rainfall patterns are predicted and whether or not, for example, they need to plant drought tolerant crops like sorghum and millet or reap the benefits of heavy rains and plant greens.
This kind of work is already occurring by way of the efforts of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, which has constructed a platform for the usage of huge knowledge in agriculture. It brings collectively knowledge fanatics and consultants who use digital expertise to supply, analyse and translate huge knowledge into well timed, sensible and context particular info to information farmers in order that they make one of the best selections.
Having entry to Copernicus knowledge will undoubtedly profit this platform because it provides extra new knowledge sources. And the Copernicus deal may encourage the formation of different communities of observe and the delivery of different platforms that may proceed to translate this knowledge and assist information farmers throughout Africa.
Africa may additionally use knowledge from Copernicus to strengthen current pest monitoring efforts. The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International estimates that about 50% of the continent’s crops are misplaced to pest and ailments annually. Climate change is making the scenario worse and is expected to lead to extra invasive bugs.
Data will be mined to assist construct pictures of potential insect pests; these pictures may then be used to construct synthetic intelligence and create geographically related alerts. Sharing this info with farmers and different stakeholders equivalent to African governments and NGOs which can be on the bottom working with smallholder farmers permits them to put together for the arrival of specific pests. This is a means to keep away from large crop failures, which contributes to securing meals techniques.
This kind of work has been achieved successfully within the US. Satellite knowledge has aided in monitoring and surveilling the migration patterns of the crop consuming corn earworm, a pest that prices farmers an estimated USD$200 million a 12 months. Satellite knowledge has additionally been used to perceive how pests proceed to unfold.
Learning from one another
All of the massive knowledge that is now out there to Africa holds monumental worth and promise. But will probably be essential for the continent to sustain with advances on this rising subject: African governments, personal foundations, universities, and NGOs all want to become involved.
These teams can be taught from one another about finest practices and chart new concepts to assist speed up the usage of huge knowledge.
Training and capability constructing may also be vital to be certain that Africa has a wealthy pool of information scientists and analysts.
Esther Ndumi Ngumbi, University of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign