Pests and diseases (especially in maize, onion, and tomatoes) constitute a major problem to the agricultural sector in Burkina Faso (and the rest of West Africa) and threaten food security in the country.

To contribute to solving the problem of pests and diseases in Burkina Faso, WASCAL, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal and Fishery Resources (MARAH) and Afrique Geosciences (a local drone mapping specialist company) had developed a project called PPeDMaS (Precision Pest and Disease Management System based on Multidimensional Big Data) which has been funded as one of the ten (10) projects that received funding through the AGriDI (Accelerating inclusive green growth through agri-based digital innovation in West Africa) initiative.

AgriDI is funded through the ACP Innovation Fund of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) financed by the European Union and is implemented by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), under its Regional Coordination Unit of the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF), in collaboration with the University of Abomey Calavi (Benin), Agropolis Foundation (France) and Gearbox Pan African Network (Kenya).

The official inception workshop of the PPeDMaS Project has been held at the WASCAL Competence Centre in Ouagadougou, the main objective of which is to outdoor project and engage relevant stakeholders.

The project aims to deliver a web-based pests and diseases data platform, an early warning web application, an expert advisory system for managing pest and diseases, and a mobile application that will provide immediate solutions to farmers on pests and diseases in maize, onion, and tomato farming systems.

At the opening of the workshop, Prof Kehinde Ogunjobi, Director of Research of the Competence Centre, expressed deep concern about the negative impacts of pest and diseases in the agricultural sector in Africa and mainly in Burkina Faso. To this he said, ‘’Pests and diseases constitute a major challenge and threat to the agricultural sector in Africa. In Burkina Faso where the economy depends heavily on agriculture, pests and diseases are common in maize, onion, and tomato farming systems, usually causing significant reduction in farm productivity which threatens food security and hampers national development’’.

Recognizing the need to synergize in the fight against this plague, Dr Moumini Sawadogo, WASCAL Executive Director, called for a change of paradigm by considering measures that require innovative solutions. “The world is moving fast, along with technologies. We need to look at how best we can apply artificial intelligence to use our modern technologies such as drone technology on others at our disposal in order to provide precise management solutions for pest and disease control.”, he said.

Dr. Jonas Mugabe, the coordinator of the AGriDI projects and keynote speaker, expressed confidence about the success of the project, and pointed out the future benefits for West Africa. He said, that “The expected six major products of the project will be documented and disseminated to the ECOWAS countries. I therefore, invite you to work hard to achieve the expected results so that it can provide a model for other projects in the sub-region’’.

On his part, Dr. Diakalia Son, the representative of the director general of MARAH indicated that the ability of a country to ensure food security of its population is by protecting of its crops and stored goods against predators. To him, the implementation of the project will allow the Ministry to effectively achieve one of its main missions which is the phytosanitary surveillance and the fight against pests and predators of crops and harvests.

The workshop was attended by more than 50 participants from WASCAL, MARAH and Afrique Geosciences the coordinator of the AGriDI projects (Dr. Jonas Mugabe), regional directors from the three project regions (Centre-Sud, Centre-Ouest, and Plateau-Central), farmers from the selected regions, and scientists/professors and project students from the University of Joseph Ki-Zerbo and IPD-AOS in Ouagadougou.