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FAGEM 2021: innovative solutions for more efficient and resilient agriculture

Climate change, rural exodus, security concerns … These are all challenges facing Burkina Faso’s agriculture. A strategic economic sector of the country that accounts for 30% of GDP and provides, with livestock farming, 80% of the country’s jobs. The alternative lies in tech. It is the challenge of Afrique Grenier du Monde that dedicated its annual meeting, FAGEM, to Burkina Faso’s agriculture. Laboratory for a more efficient, resilient agriculture … and tech.

By Ibrahima SANOU in Ouagadougou

Climate change, rural exodus, security concerns… These are all challenges facing Burkina Faso’s agriculture. The country, which for a long time was Africa’s leading producer, is now in third place. It is trying to revive the activity as well as the entire sector which accounts for 30% of the GDP and provides, with livestock, 80% of the country’s jobs.

Public and private stakeholders are increasingly turning, among others, to new technologies for a more efficient and resilient agriculture. This is the leitmotiv of the Think Tank Afrique Grenier du Monde (AGM), which organized the second edition of its annual meeting, the FAGEM on September 16 in Ouagadougou. The event, held under the theme, “Agritech: key element for the agricultural revival in Burkina Faso and Africa”, brought together the main local players in agriculture, around the same conviction, “digital technology [can] allow the transformation of agriculture if we [put] in practice the various technologies of Agritech”, according to the initiator of the meeting, Charlotte Libog, founder of AGM. 

«Reducing arduous work of spraying, boosting production yield and ensuring its quality»

Already at work in the country, Moussa Yerbanga, an engineer in space borne remote sensing and drone design, head of the start-up Kono Digital, is putting technology at the service of the country’s farmers. In particular through his drones. These drones are tailor-made to respond to local problems. These include aflatoxins, toxic carcinogenic compounds that develop on many foodstuffs (cereals, dried fruit, etc.), and against which Kono Digital teams have created the “anti-aflatoxin” drone. This device offers an innovative solution to “reduce the arduous work of spraying, boost production yield and ensuring its quality”. 

11,000 hectares of banana fields treated with drones

That technology is encouraged by the Ministry of Agriculture, Hydro-Agricultural Development and Mechanization in Burkina Faso, since it initially acquired 9 drones that were used during the 2019/2020 agricultural campaign. These flying devices were used to launch the banana production campaign of the “Société coopérative agro-pastorale de Fara (SOCAF”) which, on an area of 30 hectares, produces an average of 2,000 tons of bananas per year, in the Bale province (southwest of the country). They have made it possible to “destroy the action of pests and other plant diseases that cause huge financial losses to producers by reducing the quality of the bananas produced from the attacked seedlings,” said Minister Salifou Ouédraogo, who is also co-sponsor of Forum 2021. A satisfactory first experience has led the Ministry to acquire 13 additional drones for the 2020/2021 agricultural season. In all, 11,000 hectares of banana fields have been treated with pesticides using these devices. 

This is pending the presentation, on September 25, of the startup’s new invention, the “faroucheur” drone, designed to scare away crop-damaging birds. It will be tested on rice fields in the Bagré Growth Pole (Centre-East region), a state structure that capitalizes on the agricultural potential of the Nakambe River valley. “The producers are waiting for us,” says Moussa Yerbanga. 

E-branding solutions for agricultural players

However, beyond production, technology also offers other levers for action to African agriculture, recalls Jean Cyril Bado, CEO of the Brand Performer agency. The company offers, in particular, e-branding solutions for agricultural players to develop a positive image of their products and make them more competitive on the local and international market. “The objective is to create for our local products an attractive story, an alluring packaging capable of conveying a clear, original, coherent and above all successful brand identity”, says the company CEO, who has already convinced several operators active in agribusiness to take the plunge. 

Jobs created by tech

Faso Attiéké, which has been producing and marketing the traditional local delicacy since 2010, is among its enthusiasts. Initially, the company struggled to get its production accepted by Burkinabe consumers, who were used to the offer coming from Côte d’Ivoire.  Ever since, thanks to relevant digital communication, things have changed and “people now like Burkinabe Attiéké”, says Faso Attiéké’s founder Florence Bassono Kaboré. Created with 3 jobs, Faso Attiéké now has 73 employees, including 65 women and feeds nearly 2 million people per year with a production of 600 tons of Attiéké, obtained from 500 rural producers. The next objective set by the director of Faso Attiéké is to become a totally green company by 2023, able to entirely recycle its waste. A pro-environment approach where agritech solutions could also help the company to make a difference.

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