The International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) have signed an agreement to work together to double the yields of at least 50,000 smallholder cotton farmers in Zambia by January 2024. The effort is part of a larger agreement that ITC signed with the European Union (EU) for support in the African country.
US-based ICAC is developing tools and training procedures specific to Zambia’s climate and soil characteristics as part of the agreement while ICAC will deploy two of its most advanced technologies—the interactive, voice-based Soil & Plant Health app and the Virtual Reality Cotton Training Programme—for the initiative with ITC.
The Soil and Plant Health app, specifically designed for low-literacy users, will speak to the growers in Nyanja or Tonga in their local dialects.GPS technology will also be used to download local weather data and then combined with its encyclopaedic knowledge. It will use photos, videos and animations to help farmers troubleshoot any issues they are having with pests or diseases and guides them through global best practices for raising yields, an ICAC press release said.
Using one of the most advanced 3D cameras in the world, the Virtual Reality Cotton Training Programme uses a drone to shoot fields from multiple angles and then combines those different perspectives to create a ‘sphere’ of virtual reality around the user. This will allow farmers to immerse themselves in the experience of walking through any cotton field in the world, at any time of the season, to learn best practices.
The project has three major components: ITC will partner with ICAC to double yields within three years; seed cotton grading and pricing in close collaboration with the Cotton Board of Zambia; and artisanal fibre value addition to employ women and youth.