Do Benin farmers want to use paid drone services?
Small holder farmers in Benin are warming up to drone technology and are willing to pay for drone services as a way to make their farm operations easier and smarter, a recent research by Global Partners has proved.
Preliminary results from a survey of over 200 predominantly rice farmers from the Glazoue Municipality, a town of about 150,000 people in the Collines province in central Benin, showed that about three in four farmers were willing to pay drone service fees, chiefly because they are vastly cheaper than traditional means, and could be completed way less time. The cost for services like pests and disease identification, and pesticide and fertiliser application went for an average of $8,60 per hectare when using drones, but they would rise to about $15 per hectare when manual labour was hired.
“The preliminary results showed that the vast majority of producers (70.26 percent) have a good understanding of the benefits of drones for rice production,” said Global Partners in its report, which it conducted with funding from Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA). “Just over half (52.59 percent) considered drone services very useful while 46.12 percent found them as useful. Thus, almost all rice producers perceived the use of drone services as a useful technology that will help increase rice productivity, and production, as well as incomes.”
To be precise, it would cost a farmer $6 per hectare on average to use a drone to identify pests and diseases in his field, as compared to €12.97/ha it would cost to hire an expert to do it physically – a reduction of costs by 60.7 percent. Fertiliser application costs €3.96 – about one-third of the cost of manual spreading of €11.44 in the study area. Only the application of pesticides by drones saw costs slightly going ahead of traditional methods, costing about $5 per hectare, as compared to about the five percent less be paid to pesticide specialists. The drones won this one because farmers consider them to be quick and more efficient.
Said the report, “The overall reduction in costs could be explained by the fact that farmers perceive the drone as a technology that significantly reduces the time needed and the drudgery to complete the various farming operations.
“On the other hand, farmers’ responses were based only on their understanding and perception of drone services – and many may not have used the technology themselves as yet. A comparison of their willingness to pay should, therefore, be re-evaluated once they have used the service; as it would be a good indicator of the value of the information and services provided by the drones. Further studies will help test this assumption.
Just like the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture in Benin is a strategic sector for economic and social development, given its contribution to Gross Domestic Product and job creation. Sadly, the industry has of late been bedevilled by low productivity, climate change, inadequate infrastructure, slow adoption of agricultural technology among farmers, among other factors. These handicaps pose a threat to the current and future food security on the continent.
The use of drones as a precision farming tools was only introduced to Benin farmers in 2016 when, Global Partners Sarl developed and implemented projects with the support of CTA and the University of Kentucky in the US, which aimed to provide agricultural services to smallholder farmers in the country. The services include monitoring crop health, assessing plant nutrient requirements, and fertiliser recommendations.
The report was written by officials at Global Partners, who comprise Founder, Dr Abdelaziz Lawani; Managing Director, Dr Ouidoh Fructueuse and Arsene Agossadou, the in-Charge Monitoring and Assessment.