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How technology is helping African farms to boost production and reduce environmental pollution

Author: Emma Reynolds, CNN, Published on: 22 October 2019

"How technology is helping African farms to flourish"

...More than half of working Africans have jobs in agriculture, but poor infrastructure, inadequate tools and a lack of investment have left the continent's mostly small-scale farms struggling to feed a growing population. Now, a wave of technological solutions is aiming to help. In Ghana, a company called Acquahmeyer rents out drones that help small-scale farmers check the health of crops and use pesticide only where it is needed, reducing pollution and health risks. "Ghanaian vegetables were not making it to the EU countries because of pesticide residues on the fruit and vegetables," says chief operations officer Kenneth A. Nelson. With drones, farmers can identify pests and disease to determine exactly which crops need spraying, Nelson says. Thanks to the reduced use of chemicals (pesticide use dropped 50 percent in some cases), it's easier for farmers to meet EU countries' regulatory limits...

Esther Usman, from Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria, has been growing maize since she was 17, when she dropped out of school to support her family after her father's death. Two decades on, she was struggling. She often lay awake at night worrying about how to feed and educate her children. At times, money ran so low that she was forced to sell her crop for a pittance. "If my farm was affected by pests, I could only afford to buy a small amount of (pesticide), which was usually not effective," says Usman, now 38. And since maize in storage is often lost to moisture, pests or fungi, she said storing maize after harvesting was a problem. In 2017, Usman joined Babban Gona, a social enterprise that acts as a farmers' cooperative and offers small-scale farmers loans, credit, training and other support. It launched in 2012 with 102 farmers, and now works with 20,000. Field officers employed by Babban Gona photograph its farmers' fields. An app reviews the photos, evaluating the germination rate and seeing if the soil needs nutrients based on leaf colors. The field officers step in to alert farmers of any problems they find and advise on possible solutions. Some farmers have increased their yields by 50 percent.

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