Virtual seeds with real benefits
Cotton farmers in Burkina Faso and Cameroon are learning how to future-proof their work. Part of their training takes place on virtual fields: those who achieve successful pest control here will be able to boost their yields in real life.
Cotton farmer Wabalé Clément from Cameroon was sceptical at first. He was familiar with virtual reality (VR) glasses only as a device his son used to play computer games. Many people in the rural areas of Cameroon and Burkina Faso have never encountered this technology at all. ‘I was really thrilled that I could also use the glasses on my field,’ says Clément. He learned how this works in virtual reality when he took part in a cotton training session.
When Clément put on the futuristic glasses, he found himself in a virtual model field, where there were all kinds of creepy crawlies. The software made it possible to see which of these are dangerous pests – and which insects can actually be beneficial for his crops. There are also 3D training videos that can be viewed with the VR glasses. In addition to efficient pest control, the curriculum also covers environmentally friendly farming methods and management skills. Having gained experience with the VR glasses, Wabalé Clément will pass on his new-found knowledge to other farmers – as will 100 other recently trained multipliers in Cameroon. Around 100 trainers also received instruction in Burkina Faso; they are now using virtual reality to train other cotton farmers.
In addition to this virtual teaching aid, traditional formats are also used to deliver additional knowledge. Nearly 15,000 cotton farmers from Cameroon and 9,000 from Burkina Faso have taken part in this kind of training since 2020. This support is intended to increase crop yields, which will in turn boost farmers’ incomes. Adapted cotton growing practices are also designed to mitigate the effects of climate change. This includes the selective use of fertilizers along with cultivation practices that use vital resources sparingly.
The training courses are carried out by the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) with the support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. They are part of a global project carried out on behalf of the German Development Ministry to promote sustainability and boost added value in agricultural supply chains.