Training partners to Monitor Agricultural Land with Drones in Ghana

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Agriculture in Africa is a complex mix of farming practices involving crops, livestock, and off-farm activities. This system faces challenges from climate change, land degradation, and population growth, making accurate data crucial for effective management. However, traditional field measurements are labor-intensive and time-consuming, often limited by resources in national extension agencies.

To address these challenges, the Mixed Farming Systems Initiative (MFS) collaborated with Excellence in Agronomy (EiA) to organize a training workshop in Ghana. The training was organized in partnership with University of Bergen. This four-day program focused on utilizing data from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for monitoring crop conditions in mixed farming systems.

The workshop brought together professionals from international and national research centers, universities, and the private sector. Participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia with diverse expertise learned about UAV technology and its applications in agriculture and environmental monitoring.

The training included practical sessions on UAV flight planning, data acquisition, processing, and analysis. Participants had hands-on experience with a SenseFly eBee X fixed-wing UAV, equipped with RGB and multispectral cameras capable of capturing high-resolution images and data across different spectral bands. They learned to process UAV imagery using open-source software, creating detailed maps and analyzing crop health indicators like the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI).

One highlight was a practical session where participants operated UAV flights and captured imagery over the Golinga Irrigation scheme catchment. This hands-on experience enhanced their understanding of field operations and the challenges involved in data acquisition.

The workshop’s impact was evident in the participants’ reflections. Dr. Francis Muthoni from IITA expressed optimism about applying the knowledge gained to improve mapping crop types and mixtures in northern Ghana. Mr. Lamptey from the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute appreciated the practical nature of the workshop and looked forward to sharing his knowledge and collaborating for sustainable development.

Partnerships were crucial to the workshop’s success, with the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) providing additional UAVs and emphasizing the importance of open-source software skills for students. This collaboration demonstrates the potential for universities to contribute to agricultural development through technology and knowledge transfer.

The workshop not only equipped participants with technical skills but also highlighted the value of collaboration and knowledge sharing in advancing agriculture in Africa. With the knowledge gained from this workshop, participants are better prepared to contribute to the sustainable intensification of mixed farming systems in Ghana and beyond.

The CGIAR Mixed Farming Systems Initiative’s goal of improving livelihoods and resilience in mixed farming systems aligns with the outcomes of this workshop. By empowering professionals with UAV technology skills, the initiative can make significant strides towards achieving its objectives in Ghana and other focus countries globally.

About the CGIAR Mixed Farming Systems Initiative

The CGIAR Mixed Farming Systems (MFS) Initiative aims to provide equitable, transformative pathways for improved livelihoods of actors in mixed farming systems through sustainable intensification within target agroecologies and socio-economic settings. Through action research and development partnerships, the Initiative will improve smallholder farmers’ resilience to weather-induced shocks, provide a more stable income and significant benefits in welfare, and enhance social justice and inclusion for 13 million people by 2030. Activities will be implemented in six focus countries globally representing diverse mixed farming systems as follows: Ghana (cereal–root crop mixed), Ethiopia (highland mixed), Malawi: (maize mixed), Bangladesh (rice mixed), Nepal (highland mixed), and Lao People’s Democratic Republic (upland intensive mixed/ highland extensive mixed).

 

Image caption: Participants monitor the flight path of an unmanned aerial vehicle. Photo by Francis Muthoni/IITA

Authors: Francis Muthoni and Gloriana Ndibalema

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