Togo: Drones usher in small revolution in rice growing

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Four ways to boost agricultural productivity in Africa

By Charles Djade

Posted on Thursday, 29 April 2021 08:07, updated on Thursday, 12 August 2021 12:26
Drone in an oil palm plantation in Tiassale, Côte d'Ivoire. Luc Gnago/REUTERS

Drones used to be the exclusive preserve of the security sector. But they also happen to be great agricultural tools and their use is changing the face of rice farming in Togo.

This is part 4 of a 5-part series.

Adenyo Koffi uses spraying drones to apply crop protection products to his 10ha rice farm in the southern Togo town of Assomé. These flying machines are cheaper Koffi, who now spends just 80,000 CFA francs (€122) thanks to drone technology, whereas he used to shell out 150,000 CFA francs to have farm workers apply pesticides to rice crops each season.

Drones also reduce the time it takes to apply such products to rice fields – 15 minutes versus three hours per hectare – and limit farm workers’ exposure to harmful chemicals.

Highly ambitious goals

Koffi was introduced to agricultural drones and learned how to operate them through a new initiative created by Edeh Dona Etchri. In partnership with China Quanfeng Aviation, the entrepreneur founded e-AgriSky, a Lomé-based vocational school where farmers from the surrounding region are taught how to fly drones.

Known for launching e-Agribusiness, an online platform used by over 5,000 farmers and agricultural experts and buyers in Togo, the agritech enthusiast, who works in close cooperation with the Togolese government, has every intention of establishing drones as an essential agricultural tool in West Africa. E-AgriSky’s first cohort of students – 16 farmers from Togo, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon – are already using drones on their farms.

“In one month, the training course provides students with the knowledge they need to pilot, operate and program drones, when it comes to both applying products and mapping fields to optimise their farming operations,” said Hodabalo Egbelou, who teaches at the school. E-AgriSky has set a highly ambitious goal: by 2025, it hopes to have trained no less than 8,000 certified drone pilots.

Besides its educational offerings, the school sells drones – manufactured by China Quanfeng Aviation – to farmers and the crop protection products that go with them. “They have been approved by the government and meet environmental protection standards,” Kossi Dovene Tsekpui, an agricultural engineer responsible for marketing the drones, told us.

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