Drones used to be solely the domain of the defense industry. They are, however, excellent agricultural tools, and their use is changing the face of rice farming in Togo.

In the southern Togo town of Assomé, Adenyo Koffi uses spraying drones to apply crop protection products to his 10-hectare rice farm. Koffi now spends 80,000 CFA francs (€122) on drone technology, compared to 150,000 CFA francs for farm workers to apply pesticides to rice crops per season.

Drones also reduce the time it takes to apply such products to rice fields – 15 minutes versus three hours per hectare – and limit farm workers’ exposure to harmful chemicals.

Mr Koffi was introduced to agricultural drones and learned how to operate them through a new initiative created by Edeh Dona Etchri. In partnership with China Quanfeng Aviation, the entrepreneur founded e-AgriSky, a Lomé-based vocational school where farmers from the surrounding region are taught how to fly drones.

Known for launching e-Agribusiness, an online platform used by over 5,000 farmers and agricultural experts and buyers in Togo, the agritech enthusiast, who works in close cooperation with the Togolese government, has every intention of establishing drones as an essential agricultural tool in West Africa. E-AgriSky’s first cohort of students – 16 farmers from Togo, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon – are already using drones on their farms.

“In one month, the training course provides students with the knowledge they need to pilot, operate and program drones, when it comes to both applying products and mapping fields to optimise their farming operations,” said Hodabalo Egbelou, who teaches at the school. E-AgriSky has set a highly ambitious goal: by 2025, it hopes to have trained no less than 8,000 certified drone pilots.

Besides its educational offerings, the school sells drones – manufactured by China Quanfeng Aviation – to farmers and the crop protection products that go with them. “They have been approved by the government and meet environmental protection standards,” Kossi Dovene Tsekpui, an agricultural engineer responsible for marketing the drones, told us.