3, 2, 1 – Lift Off – Satellite Imagery and GIS mapping for IFAD

A few days ago I sat in the learning event on satellite imagery and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) organized by  PTA, ECD  and the European Space Agency (ESA) thinking this will probably be a different and interesting event, but will be somewhat removed from IFAD and its projects. Well, I was literally star struck!

As I listened to the various presentations from colleagues at ESA (Stephen Coulson, Torsten Bondo, Chris Stewart, Benjamin Koetz and Alexander Link) facilitated by the IFAD experts Emily Coleman, Francesco Rispoli and Sophie De Vos, I was overwhelmed by the notions: satellites, GIS mapping, Synthetic Aperture Radar, etc. Sophie gave an excellent overview of what she does with GIS and IFAD supported projects and programmes are increasingly making use of these technologies for mapping land and natural resources, for spatial analysis.
Remotely sensed satellite data is one of the tools that can be used both on its own and with GIS to analyse our environment, help answer questions or find solutions to problems.

Well, you are now thinking fine but how exactly does that fit in with IFAD and its projects? How can satellite imagery support IFAD in its operation for rural poverty reduction?

Not only  is satellite data useful for IFAD projects, it is an absolutely essential tool in the long term. Satellites, also referred to as remote sensing , enables objective observations of the status of remote rural areas consistently over space and time. This information can be used to design, plan, monitor and assess the impact of development projects. How about receiving invaluable information on crop state monitoring, biomass forecasting, inundation areas and land parcels which allows IFAD to better monitor their projects?

Emily and Francesco, through their work on weather index-based insurance with the IFAD-WFP Weather Risk Management Facility, have been researching the world of satellite information for a current project which is trying to develop and test different remote sensing methodologies to see if they can accurately record and predict crop damage caused by adverse weather events, particularly drought. This is not the only activity where satellites are being used for IFAD activities.

With ESA, initially, 3 trials for satellite data were done in projects in Madagascar for rice acreage, irrigation infrastructure and small land tenure maps. One of the projects  focused on food security, and IFAD required accurate information to determine the current state of crop acreage and how land cover had changed in the last 15 years. ‘Incorporating this data in our projects helps us to strengthen local capacity and transfer this knowledge to local stakeholders to improve national capacities, in addition, with the correct mathematical models, even small projects can easily be scaled up in other areas’ said Benoit Thierry (former CPM for Madagascar). Now more substantial demonstrations across a wider range of investment projects are being carried out.

In Botswana, EO will help to improve crop production by boosting cereal/maize yields in the arable lands in the Agriculture Services Support Project (ASSP) as the heavy rainfalls and flooding in the semi-arid regions has led to a decline in productivity.

In the Gambia due to yield difficulties because of the rainy season, EO assists in the Participatory Integrated-Watershed Management Project (PIWAMP) to help to improve the rice production yield given the limited growing season. Moses Abukari – CPM for Gambia said ‘this is an important tool for policy dialogue, I am able to demonstrate to the Ministers that this has been useful for their country”.

In Niger,  IFAD is concentrating its operations in the Tahoua, Zinder and Maradi regions, that has been experiencing severe droughts and food insecurity. IFAD is now helping to increase agricultural and pastoral household productivity, and EO can be part of the monitoring and evaluation system by providing up to date statistical analysis on changes in farm land use. The results can monitor crop type, crop acreage and responses to changes in irrigation patterns.

In Sao Tome and Principe IFAD is involved in the Participatory Smallholder Agriculture and Artisanal Fisheries Development Programme (PAPAFPA) . EO’s services’  here can help determine the extent of forests and provide up to date information on main forest types, cover and logging. Andrea Serpagli, CPM for Sao Tome and Principe agrees that it is important to show the government that it could become an ‘eco paradise’.

Finally, in Vietnam under the COSOP Results-based country strategic opportunities programme IFAD is supporting Vietnam to develop long term strategies for natural climate change adaptation and EO can document it by satellite maps and statistical analysis, in particular how the delta can develop over time. The learning event was the first time colleagues had got together to discuss these topics, and given the interest, it will not be the last.

As Adolfo Brizzi, Director of the Policy & Technical Advisory Division of IFAD  said in his introduction to the event – “this time, it really is rocket science…….”

More food for thought checkout the ESA press release