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ROLLout: sowing the seeds of the bigger picture

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ROLLout: sowing the seeds of the bigger picture


by Pierre Sibiry Traore

Why is very high resolution imageryPIVOTAL for the smallholder farmers that we are? Wait a minute… Why is it, in fact, so critically important to anchor and trigger agricultural growth through community geospatial infrastructures and boosted precision agriculture?

Because the world is changing. Because mankind is growing, and its offspring, higher rural population densities and larger cities, constitute with advances in technology (especially ICT) the number one driver of global change, BY FAR AND LARGE.

Because everywhere in the developing world, we intensify production systems – just as surely as we move forward the demographic transition stages. And guess what. This twin driver translates on the ground into another phenomenal duality: the need to simultaneously GO LOCAL with the production resource base and GO GLOBALwith income sources of livelihoods. Because we need to quit mining and wasting space and resources, and start to procure and cycle them locally as they get scarce. Because we need to adapt local systems to the growing distant demand and to the influence of urban preferences – hey, after all we can demand a few things from urbanites and globalites in return! Like, increase our “carrying capacity” (what a flawed concept in an increasingly anthropized world!) – or rather, EXPAND OUR TOOLBOXES. By linking us to credit, new nutrient sources, and resource management tools. Like VHRI.

Because you know what? We, smallholder farmers, are inherently skilled in image interpretation. But never did anyone bring us such VHRI maps before – and therefore few were aware of what we could do.

We, smallholder farmers, have many words to quantify finescale variability (jigin‐jigin in Bamanankan). But we never had an opportunity to look at hot spots, and bright spots from above.

We, smallholder farmers, live in close‐knit communities that can support and own intrinsically spatial and equitable technology exchange processes – using our knowledge of family lineages, hamlets and population distribution across the landscape. But we never before realized that VHRI could literally shortcut local extension bottlenecks and shortcomings.

These are but a few learnings from the SIBWA ROLLout phase, which introduced 4 VHRI products in each of 6 rural communities of West Africa in August 2009. Spending 3 days per site, logging 44,000 km‐person of road travel, directly interacting with 183 smallholder farmers, collecting over 600 photographs and 600 minutes of streaming video. And, more importantly, SOWING THE SEEDS, in these communities, OF THE BIGGER PICTURE. Because that is what VHRI can do: anchor – both locally and globally – the fundamental paradigm of modern and sustainable agricultural growth.


SIBWA (Seeing is Believing West Africa) is one of the AGCommons “Quick Wins”: 5 projects that deliver measurable impact within a year to demonstrate the potential of different models and methods. To learn more please visit :