Accra — A digital and satellite technology programme has been launched to support Ghana's smallholder cocoa farmers.
SAT4Farming is the initiative established to reach thousands of small-scale cocoa producers with information and services to improve their productivity and sustainability.
It is designed to use digital technology and satellite imagery to create individual Farm Development Plans (FDPs) that guide farmers over a seven-year period.
The digital FDPs provide a planning and monitoring tool, available over mobile devices.
Advice on farm practices and investments, climate-adaptation, certification training, and ongoing monitoring provide farmers, including women and youth, and field agents with unprecedented data-based guidance to a more sustainable future.
SAT4Farming partners include the global nonprofits the Rainforest Alliance and Grameen Foundation; global cocoa trader Touton; the University of Ghana's Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness; the Netherlands-based Satelligence and WaterWatch Projects.
Initial funding comes from the Geodata for Agriculture and Water programme of the Netherlands Space Office.
The programme plans to launch a social enterprise that will make SAT4Farming services widely available and ensure the economic sustainability of the work.
Touton has begun deploying the SAT4Farming digital FDP among its network of farmers and suppliers for Mars, one of the world's largest chocolate makers.
Meanwhile, Mars suppliers across a number of countries are adopting similar approaches to support a more sustainable cocoa sector by improving smallholders' livelihoods and protecting the environment.
The Ghana Cocoa Board supports the programme's implementation in the country.
In Ghana, 800 000 smallholder farmers make the country the world's second largest cocoa producer after Ivory Coast.