A two-day West African Forum on Precision Agriculture (WAFPA) to discuss the current state and future of precision agriculture in West Africa has been held at the Sasakawa Conference Room in the University of Cape Coast, UCC.
The forum, which brought together experts from universities, national agricultural research systems, international research centers, and the private sector, was aimed at creating Precision Agriculture (PA) awareness amongst practitioners in West Africa, as well as establishing a recognised body to promote precision agriculture.
Resource persons from nine West African nations, including Benin, Togo, Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast, among others, took turns to deliver presentations on precision agriculture in their respective countries.
A Principal Scientist at the African Plant Nutrition Institute (APNI), Dr. Steve Phillips, in his presentation, explained that “Precision agriculture is a management strategy that gathers, processes, and analyses temporal, spatial, and individual data and combines it with other information to support management decisions according to estimated variability.” That, he noted, would improve resource use efficacy, productivity, quality, profitability and sustainability of agricultural production.
Meaning of Precision Agriculture
Dr. Phillips observed that many smallholder farmers were under the delusion that the practice of Precision Agriculture required high-powered equipment and machines, and therefore, only large-scale farmers could engage in it. He, however, explained that agricultural precision was simply using spatial data to inform a better decision and urged smallholder farmers to embrace it with simple tools to increase crop yields during every farming season. He said APNI could support some financially challenged smallholder farmers who were unable to procure precision farming tools with consultants who would provide them with the right information on precision agriculture.
For his part, the Coordinator of the programme, Prof. Kwame Agyei Frimpong, in an interview, noted that “Precision Agriculture enables farmers to tailor input application including fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, among others according to the needs that were based on the differences in the field”. He called on smallholder farmers to embrace precision agriculture so as to be abreast of best farming practice in the world and noted that it would save them money and time.
Four agricultural scientists were honoured with certificates and a cash prize of 250 Euros each to support them to propagate precision agriculture in the sub-region. They are Ms. Esi Quansah (Representative from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture), Mandella Allima (Science Research Institute), Emmanuel Abban-Baidoo( Kenyatta University, Kenya) and Albert Kobinah Mensah ( Ruhr University, Germany).
At the end of the two-day workshop, participants recommended that there should be a policy dialogue to make PA priority in Ghana and by extension the West African sub-Region. It was also recommended that PA should be linked to increasing yield and reduction in postharvest losses. Participants also called for networking and collaboration in order to seek funding for joint projects in PA.
Present at the opening ceremony were the Provost, College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, Prof. Moses Jojo Eghan and the Dean, School of Agriculture, Prof. Elvis Asare-Bediako.