Drone-Assisted Mapping for Climate-Smart Cashew Production
In partnership with Wehubit, TechnoServe is implementing the CajùLab project to promote farmer adoption of climate-smart agricultural (CSA) practices using emerging digital solutions, such as drones and machine learning.
In Benin, cashew is the second-largest export crop, and rising global demand has spurred significant growth of its production—increasing four-fold in the past two decades and reaching 140,000 metric tons (MTs) in 2018. The local government aims to reach a production of 300,000 MTs in 2021 by increasing cultivated areas by 60,000 hectares. However, little is known about the manner in which farmers increase cashew production in accordance with climate-smart agricultural practices. Poor agricultural practices will make the cashew sector—and the environment—more vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, ultimately hurting farmer incomes.
Cashew production provides an important opportunity for climate change mitigation through tree planting, if climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices are used. Previous experiences with cashew farmers show that CSA increases yields by 22%. Increased plot productivity will ultimately raise farmer income through increased sales, while subsequently reducing land pressure. If farmers can improve the productivity of their existing cashew trees, they will be less likely to clear nearby forested areas in order to plant more cashew trees–thereby growing the cashew sector as a whole while providing net environmental benefits for the country. By training farmers on CSA, we can simultaneously maximize productivity, income, and environmental benefits.
Since June 2019, in partnership with Wehubit, TechnoServe Benin has been implementing the CajùLab project, to promote farmer adoption of CSA best practices while also improving the practices themselves (including plot health monitoring, training, and policy updates). To achieve its goal, the project is using emerging digital solutions, such as drones and machine learning, to increase CSA use in Benin and contribute to the government’s goal of 300,000 MTs of cashew production by 2021, all while increasing revenue for farmers.
The project will develop a machine learning algorithm that accurately analyzes aerial imagery to assess land management and plot health, and upon project completion, government agencies and private sector stakeholders will be trained to continue using the technology. Informed by the project’s findings, TechnoServe will develop and disseminate an action plan on CSA cashew production in Benin, including policy recommendations and a training plan for farmers, to different stakeholders in the cashew sector.
In close collaboration with the BeninCajù program, CajùLab will also work with 10,000 new farmers at high risk of being impacted by climate change, and build the capacity of other extension providers to work with farmers on these issues. This will maximize the impact of training provision and increase the number of farmers practicing CSA production.
Wehubit: Belgian Development Cooperation’s digital-for-development program.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): an executive unit of the US Federal Government. Its purpose is to develop and implement policies for livestock, agriculture, and food. Its goal is to understand the needs of producers by promoting agricultural trade and production, working to ensure food security, protecting natural resources, improving rural communities, and ending hunger.