Collaborative efforts between Harvest partners under the GEOGLAM initiative led to the recent publication of “Strengthening agricultural decisions in countries at risk of food insecurity: The GEOGLAM Crop Monitor for Early Warning” in Remote Sensing of Environment. The paper documented the Crop Monitor for Early Warning’s (CM4EW’s) role in providing consensus based crop condition assessments for at-risk countries with the goals of reducing uncertainty in crop assessments for food security decisions and providing early warning of impending threats to crop production. Inbal Becker-Reshef, Christina Justice, Brian Barker, Michael Humber, Alyssa Whitcraft, and Catherine Nakalembe of the Harvest Hub teamed up with several partners from around the world, including the United States Agency for International Development Famine Early Warning Systems Network (USAID FEWSNET), the European Commission Joint Research Center (EC JRC), the World Food Programme Vulnerability and Mapping Unit (WFP VAM), the Food and Agriculture Organization Global Information and Early Warning System (FAO GIEWS), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Climate Prediction and Application Centre (IGAD ICPAC) in East Africa, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) South Africa, and the GEOGLAM Secretariat to outline the background, partnerships, methods, process, and impact of the CM4EW activity.
NASA Harvest serves as NASA’s contribution to the G20 GEOGLAM Initiative, with many roles including the leadership and coordination of the monthly GEOGLAM Crop Monitor bulletins. The team of scientists explains that it is through this collaborative process and support that international sharing of data, methods, and expertise is possible. Furthermore, providing early warning of reduced crop production to decision-makers is a key component of SDG2 Zero Hunger and it is widely accepted that Earth observations (EO) play a key role in early warning, especially for countries in danger of food insecurity.
EO data fills a critical gap in regions where agricultural instability risk is heightened due to difficulty gathering ground data and where in-situ tools are not yet implemented. While independent monitoring of crop production and agricultural systems have been put in place at many organizations across the globe, inconsistency in crop condition reporting is common due to the siloed nature of the institutional approach thus increasing ambiguity in early warning system outputs. According to the authors, “The more unambiguous an early warning can be, the more effectively it will elicit early response,” and bringing all actors in the early warning sector together to produce consistent, transparent and actionable information on current crop conditions is the overarching goal of the GEOGLAM Crop Monitor for Early Warning system.
Furthermore, CM4EW activities directly target many of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals with particular capacity to address Goal 2: Zero Hunger. Developed by GEOGLAM and modeled off of the Initiative’s successful Crop Monitor for AMIS, CM4EW was officially launched in 2016 through the joint efforts of GEOGLAM, USAID FEWS NET, EC JRC, UN WFP, UN FAO, and the University of Maryland. The CM4EW monthly bulletin combines data from multiple sources, providing consensus assessments of both region and crop specific conditions, status, and agro-climatic circumstances for countries that are susceptible to agricultural instability. Because of the joint effort and openly shared data, CM4EW has enabled decision-makers to strengthen their agricultural markets, provide humanitarian support, and implement policies for increased food security.
In light of the numerous challenges involved with crop monitoring for early warning systems, CM4EW has created a community amongst actors who support the development of technical tools and practical applications for tackling world hunger. Satellite data used in this effort has created unprecedented opportunities to decrease the cost and increase the availability of information that serves to benefit the most vulnerable regions and people throughout the world. Achieving a food-secure future is a globally shared challenge and can only be achieved through the cooperative efforts of all those involved in the agricultural field.