Optimally informed due to Geodatics advice
In 2015, ICS started the project Geodatics, financed by Netherlands Space Office. Geodatics combines geodata (satellite and soil data) with information on the soil and living situation of the individual farmer. The resulting tailor made advice is made with the aim of enhancing the harvest of farmers in Kenya and Tanzania. Since half a year, the Ethiopian Yilma Wubengeda, crop modeler and data expert, has been working on this project from Nairobi (Kenya).
“For most smallholder farmers, satellite data is something totally ungraspable” Yilma (29) starts explaining. “The way in which the advice we give them is being drafted is thus of little importance. What is important, however, is that in practice, we can show what this advice means to the farmer. We have different demonstration plots on which we can show farmers the differences between using, and not using fertilizers. The advice Geodatics currently provides deals first and foremost with the ideal amount and type of fertilizer to be used. Starting next year, a second type of advice will be added, in which the harvest will be monitored during the season and based on this data, text messages will be send to the farmer, noticing them when best to reapply fertilizer. This advice is also based on satellite imagery.”
Yilma on a demonstration plot in Kenya
“In Africa, the use of fertilizer is very low in comparison to Europe, the United States and Asia”, Yilma explains. “In Kenya the use hereof has become more well-known and accepted, but especially in Tanzania, we are presented with a big challenge. The idea behind Geodatics, is that the farmer receives our advice for free and that repayment will happen when the farmer, based on our advice, orders farm input with Agrics. Agrics is the social business of ICS that provides farmers with among others farm inputs and fertilizers on credit.”
“Starting from December we will be providing advice to 12.000 farmers in Kenya, the biggest group until now. Since the long rains season starts mid March and ends at the end of April, this will give the farmers plenty of time to place an order. What we did notice, however, is that many farmers do not completely follow our advice, as it goes without saying that the purchase of seeds and fertilizers is tied to costs. What we strive for, is for farmers to minimally follow 50% of the advice we give them. By doing so, we expect harvest, and accordingly income, to rise enough for the farmer to save some money in order to invest a bit more the season thereafter.”
“Due to climate change the importance of using good quality seeds and fertilizer, in order to ensure good harvest, is growing. Last year, El Niño caused long term droughts and this year, many farmers are plagued by the Fall Armyworm. This worm, that first only exited in North- and South-America but has now been found in Africa, eats complete maize harvests and is difficult to extinguish. Farmers are often confronted with new challenges. Geodatics and Agrics ensure smallholder farmers in Africa have access to valuable information, knowledge and certified seeds, in order to get to work fully equipped. This could for example mean providing the farmer with the needed information on early stage identification and how to combat the Fall Armyworm.”
The Fall Armyworm in a Kenyan maize field