The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), in collaboration with Aerospace Information Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Science (AIRCAS) have begun the implementation of Crop-Watch Nigeria Innovative Programme.
The implementation of the programme started with a workshop on Monday organised by NASRDA to empower participants with the skills on collection and interpretation of agricultural data in Abuja.
Part of the objectives of the programme are to ensure that the zero-hunger agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals is achieved.
The programme also provides access to a timely food information system, improving crop production using space science and technology.
Crop-Watch programme is China’s leading agricultural monitoring system, using remote sensing and ground observation data to evaluate crop growth, yield and related information at national and global level.
The programme is being supported by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Alliance of International Science Organisations (ANSO).
The Director-General of NASRDA, Dr Halilu Shaba, said that the Crop-Watch initiative was used to address food problems in China.
“Looking at how Crop-Watch helped China, you will know that agriculture depends so much on information for its accuracy and for full benefits.
“We agreed that we want to use the methodology so that we can provide necessary information to farmers and be able to advise the public and government on what is to be achieved.
“The whole idea is for training and customisation so that it will fit into what Nigeria is doing,’’ he said.
Dr Adepoju Matthew, Director, Strategic Space Application Department, said that zero-hunger cannot be achieved without the application of space science and technology.
Matthew said, “On this Crop- Watch, when our satellite goes over the country, it gathers the information on vegetation.
“Through that, we look at various crops planted in Nigeria, we check the health of the crop, the weather condition, soil type and more.’’
Associate Prof. of AIRCAS, Miao Zhang, said that they were collaborating with NASRDA to provide capacity building programmes on collection of data.
Zhang, also a key member of the Crop-Watch team, said the data will be used as a set and validation to prove the validity of the programme and agricultural practices.
“This training will focus on data collection in support of GVG, (an agricultural information collection app) smartphone apps, and which will be used for high resolution crop mapping,’’ he said.
Dr Rakiya Babamaaji, Coordinator, Crop-Watch Nigeria, recalled that they signed a 3-year Memorandum of Understanding on July 4, 2022 with AIRCAS to customise the programme for Nigeria.
Babamaaji said that the platform for Nigerian Crop-Watch will be developed and everybody will have access to information on remote sensing-based information concerning agricultural monitoring.
According to her, the platform will also provide high resolution data of land use, land cover, also for early warning activities in the country.
“The training will help participants understand how to interpret this data and translate it to local farmers,’’she said.
She mentioned that their major stakeholder is the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, adding that in early 2024, they will train agricultural extension workers, NGOs on agricultural monitoring and data interpretation.
Mr John Itodo, Deputy Director, Agric Research, Planning and Policy Coordination, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, said the ministry has recognised the need to engage technology for precision agriculture.
Itodo said that Crop-Watch has the capacity to provide robust information for forecasting and farmers use for agricultural processes.
“The last meeting was to see how many crops will be covered under the Crop-Watch and we agreed on maize, rice, sorghum and millet.
“For now, we will try to see how much of the crops can be covered in this monitoring and once we get it now, it will help us in data collection.
He,however, added that they were considering adopting the technology into other sub-sectors of the ministry such as in livestock.