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Transforming African Agriculture: Eyes In The Sky, Smart Techs On The Ground

UAS Capacity Building Workshop

11-18 July, 2018, Lusaka, Zambia

Mathews Tsirizeni, LEAD, Malawi

There is a consensus that smallholder farming needs to become more productive, more sustainable and more profitable. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) – or drone-based systems – services can contribute towards these goals by bringing some of the tools of precision agriculture to producers, which include large and medium-scale holdings and associations of small-scale farmers growing the same crop in contiguous areas. Typically, UAS services are provided by entrepreneurs who invest in the equipment, learn the skills to use it, conduct or sub-contract data analysis, interpret the findings and advise their customers.

UAS can inform a range of services, including mapping and surveying (e.g. farm boundary delineations, crop area calculations, elaboration of digital elevation models), crop inventory (e.g. count of tree crops, yield estimations), crop scouting (e.g. identification of location-specific crop stress, assessment of biomass development), crop damage assessment (e.g. for insurance purposes), crop management advice (e.g. nitrogen application on selected crops), infrastructure inspection (e.g. irrigation systems, farm to market roads, etc.), and increasing farmers’ credit-worthiness via the integration of farmer profiles with high resolution images, crop diagnostics, and accurate and up-to-date georeferenced data sets. UAS can thus help increase returns to farmers and create new knowledge -intensive employment opportunities in rural areas, offering educated rural youth an alternative to migration.

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