Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Vital Signs monitoring takes root in Ghana -To bridge gap between agriculture and the environment

By Edmund Smith-Asante
Vital Signs was launched in Africa in 2012

A method to monitor agriculture, nature and human well-being to ensure food security, known as the Vital Signs Monitoring System, has been introduced in the country.

The Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Water Research Institute (WRI) pioneered the system in collaboration with Vital Signs, which is a monitoring system for agriculture, nature and human well-being, to monitor rainfall, temperature and humidity of the country.

Vital Signs was launched in Africa in 2012 with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Conservation International, which is spearheading the monitoring system in partnership with the Earth Institute at the Columbia University and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa.

The introduction of the monitoring system is to meet the urgent need for better data and risk management tools that can guide decisions about agricultural development and ensure that the development protects people and nature.

Vital Signs provides near real-time data and diagnostic tools to leaders around the world to help inform agricultural decisions and monitor their outcomes and it is expected to create a platform for policy-makers during policy planning.

According to the CSIR, the system is already operating in Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda, and it is aimed at identifying productive zones to boost agricultural production in the four countries.

The system will also offer viable data on the production areas and for specific crop yields in the country and is expected to become a public document that would be used to assess the viability and conduciveness of a variety of crops for certain climates and times. 

Importance of system
The value of the system was brought to the fore at a stakeholders’ workshop convened by the CSIR, WRI and Vital Signals in Accra.

Introducing the system at the workshop, the Africa Fields Director of Vital Signs, Mr Patrick Mutuo, said the implementation of the system was to generate data for planners and farmers to allow better decision-making in support of development.

He said even though there were more mouths to feed, people continued to degrade the environment and water bodies every minute.

Mr Mutuo said although there were about 239 million mouths to be fed in Africa, degradation and other bad human practices continued to compound the problem over the years. 

He explained that the system was a capacity building programme which had been on the ground for the past two years, adding that it was doing well in Tanzania and its neighbouring countries and offering farmers the opportunity to improve on their farm yields.

Mr Mutuo said the system also afforded the local farmers the opportunity to interact and know where some yields could be planted, and that the system could support specific agricultural and environmental policies in the country.

He added that the system would offer a preliminary user interface and data visualisations across the country for improved agriculture.

Irresponsible behaviour
The Deputy Director-General of the CSIR, Dr Rose Emma Mamaa Entsua-Mensah, who was the chairperson for the workshop, said the irresponsible behaviour of some people on the environment was affecting agricultural production.

She stated that some practices in the country were destroying water bodies, which called for environmentally sustainable measures to arrest the situation.

“Some Ghanaians are being irresponsible and very soon there will be no water to irrigate the crops in the country,” she said.

Dr Entsua-Mensah called for a forecast like the Vital Signals, to better manage the poverty alleviation programmes that have been implemented over the years.

However, she said that could only be done by using better risk management technologies such as the Vital Signal system.  

This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on September 14, 2015

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