Its mission is to advance food and nutritional security, increase prosperity and encourage sound natural resource management in ACP countries. It provides access to information and knowledge, facilitates policy dialogue and strengthens the capacity of agricultural and rural development institutions and communities. CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.
There is a general 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.
Recognising the opportunities provided by UAS, in 2017 CTA partnered with leading private sector operators, and assisted ICT start-ups in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in acquiring the capacity to deliver UAS services. CTA organised a series of activities including training on the operation of drones and mounted multispectral sensors, understanding of safety and privacy principles and regulations, management and processing of remote sensed data, development of business plans and networking opportunities. In addition, CTA provided some financial support for the acquisition of necessary equipment.
On 26 January 2018, by issuing Decision EX.CL/Dec. 986-1007 (XXXII), the Executive Council of the African Union (AU), requested the AU and Member States to harness drones for agriculture as a selected emerging technology of relevance for the development of the African continent.
In line with this continent-wide policy recommendation, CTA, in partnership with Parrot – a global leader in the professional UAV industry – has decided to support an increase in the number of UAS operators and countries covered across Africa.