Tiny AI Devices Aim to Enrich Farmers and Their Soil | [Thomson Reuters Foundation] Rome -A piece of paper no bigger than a business card could enrich struggling coffee farmers and their soil, a growing ch

Tiny AI Devices Aim to Enrich Farmers and Their Soil

Tiny AI Devices Aim to Enrich Farmers and Their Soil

Tiny AI Devices Aim to Enrich Farmers and Their Soil

Tiny AI Devices Aim to Enrich Farmers and Their Soil

Tiny AI Devices Aim to Enrich Farmers and Their Soil

Tiny AI Devices Aim to Enrich Farmers and Their Soil
Tiny AI Devices Aim to Enrich Farmers and Their Soil
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Rome — A piece of paper no bigger than a business card could enrich struggling coffee farmers and their soil, a growing challenge as temperatures rise and prices fluctuate.

Enveritas, a U.S. non-profit, signed an agreement with International Business Machines Corp (IBM) on Thursday to pilot the AgroPad, which analyses soil samples remotely and quickly.

Powered by Artificial Intelligence, the AgroPad can perform a chemical analysis in 10 seconds, reading nitrate or chloride levels from a drop of water or small soil sample, said IBM.

Enveritas plans to provide the devices for free to farmers in coffee-growing regions of Latin America and Africa and IBM said it aims to make them affordable for everyone. Its target production cost - less than 25 cents.

The non-profit, which works with 100,000 farms, mills and estates in Latin America and Africa, did not say how many would be in the pilot but, if successful, "the plan is to scale it out", CEO David Browning told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Coffee farmers have been struggling with a slump in global prices while climate change is threatening vast swathes of land in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Enveritas, which verifies the sustainability of coffee farmers, said most of its growers live on less than $2 a day.

Chemical analysis of soil is vital to improve yields but is complicated, expensive and time consuming as it needs laboratory equipment, said Mathias Steiner from IBM Research - Brazil.

AgroPad costs less and could reduce the use of fertilisers, which would save money and help the environment, said Steiner, one of its inventors.

Last week, engineers from Britain's Brunel University also unveiled an AI device for farming - small red pods, costing £92 ($118) each, that could be planted into the soil.

The pods collect hourly data and would show farmers what the soil needs and where.

($1 = 0.7794 pounds)

(Reporting By Thin Lei Win @thinink, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. The Thomson Reuters Foundation isthe charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, and covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, and property rights. Visit www.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Malawians await ruling on contested presidential poll

Malawians await ruling on contested presidential poll

Over the past four months, Malawians have eagerly followed live broadcasts of witnesses presenting evidence to judges of alleged rigging in an election narrowly won by President Peter Mutharika.

For the first time in the southeast African nation’s history, the court proceedings were aired on private radio stations.

The testimonies, which ended on Friday, challenge the credibility of the May elections that saw Mutharika narrowly secure a second term with 38.5 percent of the vote.

Runner-up Lazarus Chakwera alleges he was robbed of victory in the ballot, which he lost by just 159,000 votes.

His Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the opposition United Transformation Movement (UTM) have petitioned courts to annul the poll.

Presidential election results have never been challenged in court since Malawi’s independence from Britain in 1964.

The opposition bussed in thousands of supporters to Lilongwe for the occasion. They caused mayhem in the capital, blocking roads and throwing stones at the police.

Protesters have been demanding the resignation of the electoral body chief, and many of the demonstrations turned violent.

As interest in the testimonies spiked, the judges allowed some private broadcasters to live stream the proceedings on radio.

“Judges and lawyers are aware of the interest that the live broadcasts have raised among Malawians here and abroad,” Information Minister Mark Botoman said.

In Nthandire, a crowded slum in Lilongwe, it was a common sight to see groups of men glued to their radio sets, following the proceedings late into the night.

“I want to understand how and why the judges would have made the decision,” said 42-year old architect Potential Chitsulo.

Various witnesses have testified before the constitutional court since the hearings started in July.

They presented evidence of tampering to a panel of five judges, including altered ballot papers.

The MCP’s sixth and final witness, IT expert Daud Suleman, demonstrated how the Malawi Electoral Commission’s network and servers were breached and manipulated.

“People are following the case without necessarily going to court,” said journalism lecturer Temwani Mgunda, adding that the broadcasts had helped sustain interest in the case.

Gospel Kazako, the owner of Malawi’s Zodiak Broadcasting station — the biggest in the country — told AFP the broadcasts had spurred political engagement among the people.

“It reveals to me that me that Malawians are no longer passive participants of the electoral process,” Kazako said.

Avid listeners will now have to wait for the ruling. The constitutional court has 45 days to hand down its verdict.

If judges uphold the fraud allegations, fresh polls could be called within a matter of days, according to a former attorney general.

“How the court then will decide on this case is critical,” said a popular online activist known as Lord Denning.

“No wonder there is an almost unanimous attention towards the court by all Malawians and other non-Malawians alike”.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.

Africa's top shots: 29 November - 5 December 2019

Africa's top shots: 29 November - 5 December 2019

A selection of the week's best photos from across the continent and beyond:

Pictures from Getty, EPA and Reuters

Burkina Faso crisis: 'Soliders killed seven members of my family'

Burkina Faso crisis: 'Soliders killed seven members of my family'

In Burkina Faso, nearly half a million people have been internally displaced due to conflict.

Deaths due to the armed conflict have risen six fold from 306 in 2018 to over 1,800 between January and June in 2019.

Djibril, not his real name, told the BBC that seven of his family members were unlawfully killed since February by security forces.

He says they were targeted for being from the mainly Muslim Fulani ethnic group.

Video journalist: Maxime Le Hegarat

Reporter: Louise Dewast

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