Helping Africa’s farmers stop crop-destroying pests with space-based technology
CABI is leading a consortium funded by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP) to develop a Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE), using state-of-the-art technology to help inform farmers in sub-Saharan Africa of pest outbreaks that could devastate their crops and livelihoods. The service is active in Kenya, Ghana and Zambia, and was formally launched in December 2017 at the British High Commissioner’s Residence in Lusaka, Zambia.
Plantwise data, along with earth observation and crowdsourcing data, are being used to spearhead the fight against pests that devastate an estimated 40% of the world’s crops. The project will help farmers fight back against potentially disastrous pests such as the fall armyworm.
The technology better places CABI’s Plantwise plant clinics to give timely advice and alerts to farmers in person, and to extension officers by smartphone and tablet, so they can respond more efficiently to the risks posed to their crops. Brian Siame, who runs a Plantwise plant clinic in Zambia, says:
“This application helps me to communicate with other plant doctors who are part of the group. Despite the long distance between us, we regularly share pictures of pests or diseases and help each other diagnose. A good example is when we had the outbreak of Tuta absoluta [tomato pest] and more recently the fall armyworm.”
Fall armyworm’s damage to maize in just 12 African countries could lead to losses of 8.3 to 20.6 million tonnes per year in the absence of control.
“We are delighted to be working with CABI to help transform the lives of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. The £6.3 million of funding from the UK Space Agency will see CABI provide pest risk predictions in time for farmers to take vital preventive action and thus increase resilience to pest outbreaks.” – Ray Fielding, Head of International Partnership Programme, UK Space Agency