By Edward Mukaro
A few years ago, the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector was tipped as a potential economic growth vehicle, not just for developed nations, but also developing ones, like Zimbabwe, but if one were to inform those same nations that within a decade drones would be used for farming no one would have bought the story.
Indeed, it sounds unthinkable, how can drones be used for farming?
Precision Agriculture (PA) wipes away all doubt with regards to the use of drones in farming productively and profitably.
Founded in Zimbabwe, the Africa Media in Agriculture, Climate and Environment Trust (AMACET) is on the verge of embarking on a PA, which the organisation says will boost farmers’ production as they can now get to monitor their crops around the clock with ease.
Zimbabwe has been facing one of the most severe droughts, since 1980, as climate change rears its ugly head through the erratic or no rainfall at all in most parts of the country. The effects have had a negative impact on the southern African country, as most water bodies reached alarmingly low levels, something had never been experienced by the citizenry over the recent years.
The ripple effects, of which, have affected the country’s economy, as electricity generation has increasing become low rendering most productive sectors unproductive, while some have resorted t solar energy to stay afloat.
With the winter cropping season fast approaching, AMACET’s vision of introducing PA in Zimbabwe at larger scale than ever done before could just prove to be the magic wand that the nation has long been waiting for in order for the young nation to turn a new leaf, where there is food security and.
Some scholars have defined PA as a principle of management of agricultural parcels that aims to optimize yields and investments, seeking to better take into account the variability of the environment and the conditions between different plots and at intra-plot scales.
However, some have simply classified PA as an approach to farm management that uses information technology (I.T) to ensure that the crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity.
PA is however is not a new phenomenon.
Precision Agriculture is (today) being regarded as the main element in the agricultural revolution. It (PA) started in the early 1900s, spurred by the increased mechanization and proceeded during the same period with new methods of genetic modification.
Generally, PA has three major components, which include information, technology and management.
Simply, PA is mostly regarded as satellite farming, site specific crop management (SSCM) or precision agriculture is a concept, which implies observation, measurement and respond to inter and intra variability in crops with help of information technology (IT).
By using PA, farmers can define the crops and soil requirements for optimum productivity on one hand and to preserve resources, environment environmental sustainability and protection on the other side.
AMACET founder and chief coordinator, Mr. Chiedzo Josiah Dimbo said it is high time Zimbabwe turned to PA, as the practice will change the way of farming and transform it into a business.
“Zimbabwe is 100 percent ready for Precision Agriculture. The appetite is huge. Farmers are pregnant with hope that PA will change the way of farming and transform it into a business.
“The benefits supersede costs. However, we are yet to carry out pilot studies as we currently seized with preparations,” said Dimbo.
The Africa Union (AU) has already engaged partners and has to date published a report entitled: “Drones on the Horizon: Transforming Africa’s Agriculture”.
The report explains how drones are a vital part of precision agriculture and how drones can be used to provide detailed and on-demand data that support decision making by farmers in the continent.
The report recognizes numerous pilot studies around the drone’s implementation in Africa, such as the multirotor and fixed wings aircrafts, however, the most interesting aspects is the application of drones in such areas as land mapping and surveying, land tenure and land use planning, cargo delivery, management of agricultural assets, scientific research, an insurance and damage assessments.
However, PA is not all about drones, as technologies such as the Global Positioning Systems and the Internet also play a pivotal role.
The AU is also on record urging African nations to adapt PA as it seen, as a form of farming that will enhance the socio-economic well being of Africa and is likely to support states in attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The organ also noted that, “The Executive Council of the African Union (AU), requests the AU Member States to harness drones for agriculture as on of the three emerging technologies of relevance for African development.
By Edward Mukaro