ASUTSUARE, Ghana, Oct 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Ephraim Kofi Kenney does not like to work in the fields scaring pests away. But today he must.
A flock of migratory birds has repeatedly invaded his parents’ rice plot outside Accra, Ghana’s capital, and the 16-year-old has been tasked with keeping the invaders away from the young crop.
If he fails, there will be no harvest on the one-acre (half-hectare) farm this season.
“This work makes me very tired. I can lose my voice because of shouting at the birds,” said the youth, as he tugged at a rope attached to a bell he was using to scare off the hungry creatures.
“I wish there was a way to make it easier.”
Nearby, farmers and researchers are experimenting with one possible answer: A drone that can help farmers protect their crops from the effects of climate change and ward off hungry birds at the same time.
In a project run by the Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) rice farmers are being taught how to use drones to carry out jobs such as spraying fertilizer more efficiently and mapping scarce water sources, said George Madjitey, CEO of GEM Industrial Solutions.
But there turns out to be a bonus: The drones can emit a noise to keep the birds from undoing all the farmers’ hard work, said Madjitey, whose social enterprise is one of the local firms supplying drones for the project.
The drones cannot operate at all times – but they can help cut down on the need for work like Kenney’s, which can keep young people away from their studies.
As climate change brings more unpredictable and extreme weather, small-scale farmers are increasingly turning to technology to help them find ways to keep their farms sustainable, agricultural experts say.
While drones have become a staple in farming tool kits in many parts of the world, Ghana’s rice farmers are for the first time learning how the devices can help them adapt to the prolonged droughts the country is experiencing.
With dry spells killing crops and drying natural sources of food across Africa, migratory birds now spend more time feeding on grain fields they come across because they don’t know how long it will be before their next meal, said Kunga Ngece, a Nairobi-based development expert.
According to Madjitey, a single drone can scare away birds on a farm as large as three acres (1.2 hectares).
“The drone makes work easier for farmers because it can operate over a wide range of land. Also, the children are able to stay at home with their families and do their homework instead of being on the farm,” he said.