AgriSense STARS’ GeoODK Pilot Project Off to a Super Start
The University of Maryland (UMD) and Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) are building agriculture-monitoring capacity in Tanzania at local and national government through electronic field data collection. This initiative is part of the AgriSense STARS (Spurring a Transformation for Agriculture through Remote Sensing) project. In January and March 2015, UMD together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives (MAFC), and SUA introduced the GeoODK Android Application at training workshops in Morogoro Region. GeoODK was developed at UMD and is based on Google’s Open Data Kit (ODK). This smartphone app allows the efficient collection of field data in electronic format using a smartphone or tablet and direct and wireless submission to an online database. Among the workshop participants were representatives of the National Food Security Department at MAFC, agricultural advisors and officers from the regional and district offices respectively, and agricultural extension officers from within the Morogoro region.
During the workshops, paper forms currently used by MAFC were converted to electronic forms. With input from workshop participants the forms were revised and improved to meet both MAFC’s mandate to monitor agriculture for food security and to streamline data collection at the village and district level. Improvements included adding the invaluable option to take and submit digital photographs of crop pests and diseases. Form design was followed by hands-on exercises (Figure 1) on completing and submitting them online. The GeoODK system significantly increases the efficiency of data collection by streamlining data entry through menus and options, reducing delivery time to just minutes from source to analyst, and eases access and analysis through the online database. The data are instantaneously accessible to any authorized entity within the government and can be used to integrate with other data sources and satellite remote sensing information. The participants welcomed the new technology with much enthusiasm and were equipped with an Android tablet each to participate in the GeoODK pilot project with the aim to facilitate MAFC’s mandate.
Figure 1: Extension agents learning how to collect field data using GeoODK electronic forms.
Extension officers from pilot wards and district agricultural officers from all districts in the Morogoro region begun submitting data to the online database soon after the workshop on a weekly basis. Progression of crop development and condition, and occurrences of crop pests and diseases have been reported on a regular basis. Figure 2 shows some examples of pest and disease infestations that have been reported.
Figure 1: Example images submitted by ward Extension Officers. [Top left] Rice viral disease in Ulanga District, Mawasiliano ward: [Bottom left and top center] Aphids and stalk bore affecting maize, [Top left] cigar end rot affecting bananas in Gario district, Ngowe ward: [Bottom center] beetles affecting vegetables in Morogoro district and [Bottom right] rodent infestation in Mvomero District, Kanga Ward.