The Tanzania Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) is working to improve agricultural decision-making. MoA has been working with the University of Maryland since 2014 to use remote sensing data and information to report on crop conditions, using the Tanzania GEOGLAM Crop Monitor System and the Global Agriculture Monitoring (GLAM) East Africa system. As agriculture in Tanzania is largely rainfed, agrometeorological parameters such as rainfall, air and soil temperature and humidity which influence crop growth and conditions have to be monitored locally, especially in remote (rural) areas to ensure timely and appropriate information delivery to decision makers. However, for the past 7 years, MoA has not been receiving data from it’s 600+ manual stations across the country. The system as it was designed relied on observers collecting data and sending written cards that were mailed every 10 days and at the end of the month. For a number of reasons, including vandalized locations, many stations have not been reporting as required.
In the framework of the NASA Harvest Program, the University of Maryland is coordinating a pilot project to design and prototype sustainable networks of agro-meteorological sensors. NASA Harvest and project partners ICube (France), WISE-Futures (Tanzania) and MoA Tanzania are elaborating a concept to develop prototypes working with MoA to automate agromet data acquisition, processing and use within MoA. This will be achieved through high-tech solutions combining IoT and cloud processing of Big Data to improve remote sensing-based models for crop conditions monitoring, with the goal of improved agricultural decision making. A main feature of the concept is to ensure local capacity within Tanzania (starting with students at Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, Arusha) to build the systems, a cornerstone to sustainability in the long run. If realized, the concept would address the problems associated with agro-meteorological data acquisition. WISE-Futures students will be involved in the mapping of some stations, as well as the development and testing of suitable agro-meteorological equipment in Tanzania.
The partnership officially kicked-off with a workshop October 8-12, 2018 at Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, (NM-AIST) in Arusha, Tanzania. Presentations from NASA Harvest, ICube, WISE- Futures, Makerere University's WIMEA project, and iTEC from NM-AIST covered the expertise and capacities of partners, partners reviewed the challenges to be addressed to ensure sustainability of the new systems from MoA, a demo of new hi-tech communication sensors was presented and site visits to the existing field stations belonging to the MoA and to the Pangani River Basin office were carried out.