Precision Agriculture and Small Scale Farming

Report
Precision Agriculture and Small
Scale Farming
SOIL4213-Spring 2011
Student:
Celso Tamele
Agronomic Engineer (BSc)
MSc Candidate – BAE department
Objectives
• Assess small scale farming in the sub-Saharan
Africa context.
• Assess the suitability of current precision
agriculture techniques for small scale
agriculture.
• Identify precision agriculture technologies
that are suitable for small scale agriculture.
Background
• Different definitions for small scale farming:
– Small-scale agriculture is an alternative to factory farming or
more broadly, intensive agriculture or unsustainable farming
methods that are prevalent in primarily first world countries
(www.wikipedia.com).
– Some individuals feel a small farm is any farm below the
industry average. Others like to base their definition on how
many acres or hectares you have. In general, a small farm is
any farm that requires an off-farm income to provide the
farmer with a decent way of life.
(http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/farming/15541).
– USDA definition: "small farms" are farms with less than
$100,000 in value of annual production and "non-commercial"
farms sell less than $50,000 per year
(http://web.missouri.edu).
Background
• “Most of the population in developing countries is still
engaged in traditional farming with limited application of
modern technologies in rural areas. The key restriction is
obviously due to the backwardness of agricultural sciences
and technology, and limited input to agriculture” (Maohua,
2001) .
Source: http://www.solutions-site.org
Small scale farming in Sub-saharan
Africa
www.nric.net
Small scale farming in Sub-saharan
Africa
• Source: Spencer (2001)
• Over 96% of the farmers are small.
• Small farms account for over 90% of agricultural
production.
• Cultivated areas of less than 5ha (large group with <1ha).
• Example: Zimbabwe 2001
– Large scale farms (>80ha) yielding 5-6 ton maize (2001 data).
Account for less than half total maize production.
– 99% of farmers are small scale, yielding 1.5ton/ha.
• Majority of small scale farms have weak linkages to markets
and little or no access to external inputs.
Precision Ag. Technologies for Small
Scale Farming
• Problem= poverty of knowledge + small scale farms+low
inputs
Corn
average
yield
developing
countries1
(ton/ha)
Corn
average
yield USA2
(ton/ha)
Corn price2 Gross
($/ton)
profit for a
2ha farm
with
current
yields($)
Gross
profit for a
2ha farm
with
potential
yields($)
125hp
(used)
tractor
price($)
1.5
9.2
$160/ton
($4/bu)
2944
55500
480
1-http://old.iita.org/; 2-www.nue.okstate.edu/
*1 bu/ac=0.06ton/ha; 1bu(corn)=25kg=0.025ton; 1ac=0.4ha
Q: Are current precision Ag. technologies feasible?
A: At this scale, yields and trade scenario they are not.
“Small is beautiful, but it’s small” – Richard Critchfield, 1977.
Small scale farming in Sub-Saharan
Africa
Challenges for small scale farmers:
• Decline of prices for traditional commodities
(cocoa, cotton, oil palm etc).
• Increasing costs of inputs at farm level.
• Globalization phenomenon where world trade
agreements resulted in loss of urban markets
of major cities to imported goods.
• This trend is leading to poverty and migrations
(to the cities and to the West and East).
Small scale farming in Sub-saharan
Africa
• Profitability is a big issue. World trade scenario and the need
for mass production often hinders small scale farming.
Source: http://newworldnotes.blogspot.com
Small scale farming in Sub-Saharan
Africa
Solutions to change the scenario include:
• Take small farmers into account in national
and international policymaking.
• Invest in rural infrastructure and invest in
people-centered development.
• Support research and extension systems.
• Increase access to fertilizers and credit
(critical inputs for adoption of more modern
production practices).
Small scale farming in Sub-Saharan
Africa
Simple technological inputs can increase yields.
Farmer field using in-situ water harvesting technique. Source: IP Consult/PROGRC
Precision Ag. Technologies for Small
Scale Farming
• Advanced technologies are prohibitive to most small scale
farmers due to it’s cost. Therefore Appropriate Technologies
are a common approach.
• Appropriate technologies has several definitions:
• “ The U.S Congress Office of Technology Assessment
characterizes Appropriate Technology as being small scale,
energy efficient, environmentally sound, labor-intensive, and
controlled by the local community” (Hazeltine and Bull, 1999).
• Appropriate technology (AT) is a technology that is designed
with special consideration to the environmental, ethical,
cultural, social, political, and economical aspects of the
community it is intended for (www.wikipedia.com).
Precision Ag. Technologies for Small
Scale Farming
“Small farmers have always employed precision agriculture because
they knew every square meter of their farms and how production can
vary from one square meter to another”- Maohua (2001).
Technological choices (as described by
Hazeltine and Bull,1999):
• Crop selection: food or cash?
– Variety adapted for the region.
– Part of the yield is often used as
seeds.
www.savingourseeds.org
Precision Ag. Technologies for Small
Scale Farming
• Tool selection:
– Fertilizer application: reference
strips, natural fertilizers (e.g
manure, cover crops).
– Pesticide application: natural
pesticides (e.g Neem oil).
Source:www.buzzle.com
• Planting method:
– Hand planter.
– Tilling machine.
• Reaping methods:
– Human powered
Harvester??
Source: www.nue.okstate.edu
Source: www.fao.org
Conclusions
• Lack of knowledge and inputs are the main causes of
reduced yield for small scale farming in sub-saharan
Africa.
• Small scale farming in sub-saharan Africa is hindered by
the current world trade scenario and it is adequate
only for local economies.
• Precision agriculture can be applied for small scale
farming depending on the technological package to be
implemented.
• Current precision agriculture technologies are often
prohibitive for small scale farmers due to their cost.
• Appropriate precision Ag. technologies can be used to
help small farmers bridge to a more commercial
agriculture with reduced environmental impacts.
References
Hazeltine, B. and Bull, C. (1999). Appropriate technology- Tools,
Choices and Implications. Academic press.San Diego, USA.
363pp.
Maohua, W. (2001). Possible adoption of precision agriculture for
developing countries at the threshold of the new millennium.
Computers and elctronics in Agriculture 30. 40-45
Spencer, D. (2001). Will they survive? Prospects for small farmers
in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sustainable food security for all by
2020 seminar. IFPRI. Available at http://conferences.ifpri.org/.
Accessed on 8 April 2011.
Obrigado/ Thank you/Kanimambo

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