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Economy: Space Technology To The Rescue

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Wikipedia defines space technology as one developed by space science or the aerospace industry for use in spaceflight, satellites, or space exploration. It includes spacecraft, satellites, space stations, and support infrastructure, equipment, and procedures.

Space technology is a very important technology which value cannot be quantified. The economic importance of this technology will come in handy for a country like ours that is in need of diversification of sources of revenue to quicken our development and the wellbeing of the people. Many countries of the world like the United Kingdom have employed space technology in their food production and are the better for it.

An agriculture specialist at the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), UK, David Telford, spoke of the need to increase food production as the rate of population growth in the world continues to increase, pointing out the way for widespread adoption of satellite technology in farming and food production.

He said, “The United Nations predicts food production will need to increase by 70 per cent to cope with a world population of more than nine billion by 2020 as well as the need to feed more people. We face problems such as reducing land use every year due to urbanisation, climate change and increasing energy costs, on which agriculture is particularly dependent. To cope with all this, technology is needed, so there is an agri-tech revolution going on at the moment.”

Africa faces the same problem of increase in population and reduction of land use mostly due to desert encroachment and various governments have come up with ways to tackle the problem. Nigeria’s need to diversify its economy which has become more pressing due to the drastic fall in the price of crude oil in the international market price makes the dive into space technology very necessary.

There is a need for the application of the space technology in key sectors of our economy especially in agriculture. It is no doubt in recognition of this that the Minister of Science and Technology, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onu, tasked the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) to intensify its research and innovation to help in diversifying the nation’s economy.

At the 16th annual space dialogue organised by NASRDA, Onu said Nigeria, more than ever before urgently needed the space programmes for national development, adding the technology could be deployed to the agricultural sector to ensure food security.

“Space technology can be used in land preparation, management, irrigation and pest monitoring and control.

“It can be used for monitoring deforestation, desert encroachment, illegal fishing in international waters.

“It is also very important in the area of solid minerals identification, e-learning and e-health,” the minister pointed out.

Apart from agriculture, he also said the technology could be deployed to help in national security, crude oil theft, breakage of pipelines and protection of national security, provision of effective surveillance to check smuggling as well as control of criminal activities.

Saying the sharp drop in global oil prices has taught Nigeria a bitter lesson, the minister stressed that government must take advantage of the opportunity created by becoming self-reliant, adding “we must look inwards in the search for solutions to our problems. Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind in space science and technology.”

However, a professor of systems engineering and educational administrator, Prof. Ibidapo Obe, counselled government to create a conducive environment for private sector participation in its space programme.

Citing the examples of US, China and India as countries that generate a lot of foreign exchange from its satellite programs, he said Nigeria has the manpower requirement to turn around the sector. Obe said proactive measures and strategic plans must be taken to ensure that NASRDA’s mandates and programmes align with the approved 25 years roadmap.

The director-general of the NASRDA, Prof Saidu Mohammed, called for inter-agency collaboration which he said would help to move the economy forward. In his speech at the Center for Satellite Technology Development (CSTD) week/conference yesterday, he said the agency had what it takes to move various sectors of the economy forward, especially the agricultural sector adding it only needed to be approached by those who have need for their services.

“The military demanded our assistance and we gave them. They came here and we trained them and we followed them too because they invited us. We have had workshops and conferences.

“We need them to seek our assistance. We have satellite covering the whole nation which can be used for soil mapping, land evaluation. It is high time they come and consult us. We can only give what we have if we are consulted,” he said.

He added that as the nation is gearing towards agriculture for economic growth, space-based technology would be of value to farmers, agronomists, food manufacturers and agricultural policymakers who wish to simultaneously enhance production and profitability.

“Rainfall assessments from satellites, for example, help farmers plan the timing and amount of irrigation they will need for their crops. Accurate information and analysis can also help predict a region’s agricultural output well in advance and can be critical in anticipating and mitigating the effects of food shortages and famines,” he added.

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