Sat4Farm initiative

Using a tablet device, a field agent will work with the farmer on the execution of a development plan

Rainforest Alliance has announced a sustainability initiative that uses satellite technology to support Ghana’s smallholder cocoa farmers.

SAT4Farming would reach thousands of small-scale Ghanaian cocoa producers with information and services to improve their productivity and sustainability, said the alliance.

Launched in the Kumasi area of Ghana, the scheme uses satellite imagery to assist the creation of a bespoke ‘farm development plan’ (FDP) for each farmer.

Satellite and remote-sensing information provided “detailed, plot-specific data, allowing the farmer to receive tailored advice on key issues like the amount of irrigation needed, amount and type of fertilisation needed, crop growth and optimal amount of shading” said Henk van Rikxoort, senior innovation manager at Rainforest Alliance.

Each FDP covered a seven-year period, which in agriculture was “a practical and common timeframe to plan investments and their returns as determined by cocoa sector partners, based on experience in investing in cocoa farming systems” van Rikxoort told The Grocer.

The plan is based on data about the condition of the farm and the socio-economic circumstances of the smallholder. It includes an ‘investment and intervention’ timeline that is determined with input from the farmer. The plan will be revised every year based on the progress and circumstances of the farm.

Using a tablet device, a field agent – often an agronomist – will work with the farmer on the execution of the plan, providing advice on farm practices and investments, climate adaptation, certification training, and ongoing monitoring.

SAT4Farming is a collaboration between Rainforest Alliance, anti-poverty non-profit Grameen Foundation, cocoa trader Touton, the University of Ghana’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, and the Netherlands-based Satelligence and WaterWatch projects.

Smallholder farmers produce the vast majority of the world’s cocoa. In Ghana, 800,000 smallholders make the country the world’s second-largest cocoa producer. However, they faced “declining yields, mounting threats from pests and disease, and persistent poverty” Rainforest Alliance warned.