The Beninese government has set a target of exporting 300 000 tons of cashew nuts per year from 2021. In a context of climate change and the need to increase agricultural production to feed an ever-growing population, it is important, in order to achieve this goal sustainably, to promote climate-smart agriculture. Unfortunately, in the cashew sector, there is very little data on producers and practices adopted and on the state of cashew plantations in Benin. Aware of the potential of drone technology to improve the performance of agricultural sectors in Benin, TechnoServe Benin, in partnership with Global Partners, has been implementing since June 2019 in Benin, an innovative project called CajùLab (Mapping by drone for intelligent climate-related cashew production), financed by Wehubit (a digital development program) from Enabel (the Belgian Development Agency).
CajùLab aims to use drone mapping to promote climate-smart agriculture in the cashew nut sector. This large-scale project was presented on October 1rst 2019 at the TechnoServe Office in Cotonou in the presence of around a hundred participants including the TechnoServe Benin Staff, the IMPACT team from TechnoServe Inc, the press and about fifty representatives members companies of the Africa Goes Digital Consortium to participate in the capitalization workshop of experiences of use of drones in Africa which is held from October 1rst to 5th 2019 in Cotonou. Organized jointly by Technoserve Benin and Global Partners, a local company providing digital solutions in agriculture, the presentation session aimed to share the new project with the various experts present, to learn from other countries' experiences, receive suggestions for better organizing and implementing the data collection and analysis phase of the CajùLab project. The project will use drones and artificial intelligence to assess land use and management of cashew plantations, and identify areas of high environmental degradation. This will help better target producers who need capacity building in climate-smart agriculture.
« We aim to digitize the agricultural sector by modernizing the techniques of popularization, collection and analysis of statistical data, using ICTs, promoting mobile payments in the agricultural sector and digital traceability of products. To this end, TechnoServe works closely with the Territorial Agency for Agricultural Development Pole 4 (ATDA4) responsible for the cashew industry to use drones by targeting the producers that are needed, and thus ensure a better use of public resources with rapid and effective monitoring and evaluation. Through this public-private partnership, we intend to contribute to two aspects of the PAG, in particular the rapid growth of the cashew sector, and the digital sector at the center of Benin's development to make the country a platform for digital services. »James OBAROWSKI, Country Director of TechnoServe Benin.
Some technical details were also provided to the participants by Dr. Abdelaziz LAWANI, Managing Director of Global Partners: «UAVs offer images of greater precision than satellite images and are cheaper given the area to be mapped. In addition, compared to pineapple, the recognition of cashew trees will be easier to the algorithm that will be developed given the size of cashew trees.»
The project coordinator, Arsène Agossadou, gave the participants more details about the project. He said the implementation of CajùLab will put TechnoServe and its local partners in a leading position in the large-scale use of drones in agriculture.
As part of this project, an action plan will be developed to promote climate-smart agriculture in the production of cashew nuts in Benin. In addition, about 10,000 producers will be trained on environmentally farming practices. This will increase productivity sustainably while maximizing the environmental benefits of cashew production. The exchanges following the interventions corroborated the interest of the participants in the project given the different questions and suggestions made by the participants. According to Mr Giacomo Rambaldi, Principal Coordinator of the ICT Program at the Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) in Wageningen (the Netherlands), the widespread use of drones in Africa is to be strongly encouraged given climate change and the huge business opportunities this presents for young people like mobile phones. He encouraged the various actors involved in the project to continue the work for its success. This event allowed the participants to better understand the CajùLab project and to inquire about what is planned on a large scale with drones in agriculture in Benin. Some pictures of the presentation session!