Harnessing Geospatial Technology to Address Agricultural Challenges
TechnoServe Labs, an innovation unit within TechnoServe, sought to find practical ways to use geospatial technology to target training resources in Benin. To develop solutions, TechnoServe Labs engaged the brilliant minds of graduate computer science students from CMU-Africa in Kigali, Rwanda. CMU-Africa, a branch of the Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering, cultivates the next wave of African tech leaders and innovators. They are focused on creating digital knowledge to expand technology development and job-creating innovation.
Geospatial Technology: Lighting the Way Forward
TechnoServe Labs saw an opportunity to use geospatial tools to provide more detailed information about cashew producing areas. Labs wanted to help the government meet its strategic cashew production targets and boost incomes for the 200,000 cashew farming families in Benin.
CMU-Africa interns, collaborating with Labs and the BeninCaju program, designed a geospatial web dashboard that identifies cashew-growing areas in Benin. The dashboard uses inputs from a machine learning algorithm built by researchers at the University of Minnesota. Abdul-Kazim Shamba, MSECE ‘21, spearheaded the dashboard’s initial version. The Labs team is currently expanding the dashboard to show smallholder cashew plantations across West Africa.
The dashboard pulls together multiple data layers to enable informed decisions for resource allocation and long-term strategic planning. Near term, government and industry officials can use the dashboard to improve management of field trainers and other resources. Long term, Labs plans to use the dashboard to develop large-scale carbon sequestration projects – based on planting cashew and other tree crops.
Abdul-Kazim Shamba, MSECE ‘21, remarked, “Collaborating with TechnoServe Labs has been transformative. It’s rewarding to see my technical expertise directly enhancing lives.”
TechnoServe Labs and CMU-Africa: A Synergy of Technology and Impact
CMU-Africa and TechnoServe Labs benefit from their mutually complementary strengths. CMU-Africa brings its technological prowess, and TechnoServe Labs brings a disciplined, agile approach for development work that spans teams in multiple geographies.
Dave Hale, Director at TechnoServe Labs, reflected on this partnership.
With the alliance, TechnoServe Labs has gained access to groundbreaking geospatial solutions. And CMU-Africa students have been given the invaluable opportunity to apply their knowledge to real-world challenges, creating practical solutions for TechnoServe partners across Africa.