It is not only in developed countries that the power of data is being leveraged. In the context of climate change, the young techies from Burkina Faso are shaping the future of irrigated agriculture. Because the problem they address is bold and because the approach they use is scientific, let’s look at the evidence.
Water management in a changing climate
The extreme weather events now recognized as ‘climate disruption’ severely affect agricultural production in the world. We are now witnessing longer droughts but also, in the opposite direction, drastic floods across the globe. In West Africa—Burkina Faso is in Sahelian country—it is the droughts that are plaguing our rural communities. It is estimated that between one and three tonnes of water are needed to produce one kilogram of rice (FAO). However, some Sahelian countries are below the 1,000 m3-per-capita threshold that defines water scarcity. Hence, water optimization in the region is one of the greatest challenges for the achievement of the sustainable development goals. Optimization and reuse of water for agriculture: it is necessary to measure.
Data as a key component of adaptation
At the day after the Paris agreement, it’s obvious that the 2 °C will make no sense without data and above all open data. As we are in the heart of the Data Revolution a man said, “If we have data, let’s look at them. If the only things we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
When it comes to agricultural water management in developing countries, the FAO has made immediate recommendations to help develop practical adaptation and mitigation strategies. Among these recommendations, we can note the need of a high level strategic adaptation for irrigation and water use in agriculture (More details in FAO Water Reports 36, page xxv).
There is a central role that data can play in this respect. In fact, the collective knowledge-building from the data collected on each individual farm will not only help shape development programmes but also ensure the inclusion of farmers themselves in these programmes. Hence, Actors in this component of the battle, which aims to help build climate change literacy among farmers toward smart adaptation and mitigation, are needed. Yes, through open-data initiatives, a small community of geeks based in Ouagadougou is trying to make things happen.
The Internet of things (IoT) and the Ouagalab
OuagaLab is a community of young innovators based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Using technology wisely as a development lever while putting at the centre the local context is our leitmotiv. Our latest finding is the use of the Internet of things (IoT) for the sustainable management of water resources for more productive irrigated agriculture. eEAD (electronics for water and sustainable agriculture) is the name of that finding.
Indeed, with plugged sensors on solar-powered Arduino-like boards named Autonomo, we build the eEAD tool that measures the availability of well water, soil humidity but also conventional variables such as temperature and pressure. These data help to optimize irrigation system but also prevent and anticipate the wells water shortages.
The drip irrigation systems are automatically operated on the basis of pre-defined thresholds. These different thresholds are adjusted along the learning process. The result is a better understanding of the returns of various speculations based on the volume of water used. All the data are made available to the farmer’s cell phone to also serve as knowledge for adaptation. How does eEAD work? Just place it in the fields and it’s done. eEAD is autonomously solar-powered and sends data through GPRS.
The grant we seek will help us print cheaper chips making eEAD affordable for less than USD 100 which is two-thirds of the actual price. In the end, and above all, we have good news for you; the OuagaLab rooted in its convictions of the free world (free as free software) is always proud to share with anyone willing to learn. Ouagalab would be honoured to see one of its members join young farmers from around the world to understand their needs; anything that inspires innovation in a world where change is the only constant.
I am Malick Lingani, 32, a social entrepreneur from Burkina Faso. Co-founder of the NGO BEOG-NEERE.Org and mentor at the innovation hub OuagaLab, I’ve been selected for the UN CFS Y4FSN (Youth for Food Security and Nutrition) Idea Incubator with the Agrishare project to promote MOOCs for Youth in Agriculture. My educational background is software development and data science.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Malick Lingani (Burkina Faso): malick.lingani[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
Illustrations courtesy of Christian Cedric Toe.
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