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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)


Delivering crop yield nowcasts and forecasts by integrating satellite data and crop modeling in sub-Saharan Africa


PI: Ejiet John Wasige (johnwasige@gmail.com), Makerere University, and co-PI Langa Tembo, University of Zambia
U.S. Partner: Forrest Melton, California State University Monterey Bay, and the NASA Ames Research Center Cooperative for Research in Earth Science and Technology (NASA ARC-CREST)
Project Dates: December 2016 - November 2019

Project Overview:

Africa nations have significant gaps in their ability to produce and deliver near real-time crop yield information and mainstream these in national and farmer operational decision making. There are currently four "global" agricultural monitoring systems: the Global Information and Early Warning System of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service, the Monitoring Agricultural Resources network of the European Union, and the system of the Institute of Remote Sensing Applications of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The data they have published inevitably have a long lag time in comparison with "conventional" reporting of crop production. The data are also aggregated at the national or district scale and vary in accuracy and availability. The integration of earth observation (EO) data and crop modeling can overcome technical limitations to quantitative yield estimates, and such an effort is justified by the fact that EO data can be used to quantify crop health status at any given time, while the crop model can describe crop growth every day throughout the season on a pixel basis.

The goal of this project is rapid development of large-scale, real-time crop production mapping tools that will close a significant gap in crop yield data availability and enhance the capacity of African governments to deliver reliable near real-time crop production information for decision makers in agricultural planning and food security management. Members of this project team will work toward that goal while also developing the capacity of agriculture extension workers to bring that kind of information to farmers and assist them in incorporating it into their planning to combat threats to crop production in the case of abnormal weather conditions. Ultimately this should help to enhance reliable access to food in sub-Saharan Africa.


Summary of Recent Activities

Dr. Wasige’s project ended in January 2020. The goal was to carry out a rapid development of large-scale, real-time crop production mapping tools that would close a significant gap in crop yield data availability and enhance the capacity of African governments to deliver reliable near real-time crop production information for decision makers in agricultural planning and food security management. This is because African nations have significant gaps in their ability to produce and deliver near real-time crop yield information and mainstream these in national and farmer operational decision-making.

The PI reports that they delivered proof of concept that location specific and near real-time vegetation/ plant health and daily 16-day future weather forecasts can be accessed by smallholder farmers and policy workers for agricultural production planning in Africa.

The project achieved four outcomes: (1) integrated earth observation data, complementary field work, and free open source Earth data modeling tools to generate crop/vegetation now-casts and forecasts, (2) disseminated now-casts and forecasts, (3) built capacity to deliver data, and (4) supported policy advocacy to target delivering now-casts and forecasts to smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).  They operationalized delivering the following outcomes in Uganda and Zambia: near real-time crop/vegetation health information, free online Web services and a phone app to enable delivery of real-time information, and capacity building of four graduate students, enabling them to grow their skills and contribute to the project. The team conducted more than 25 community and national policy dissemination workshops for more than 1,000 field farmers in Uganda and Zambia, 200 agricultural extension workers, and policy makers. They continue to scale up to a goal of 2,000,000 stakeholders through Facebook (user ID: cropWISE) and Google Play.

The project team created a better ICT policy environment for scaling out real-time agricultural ICT services. Users gained skills and knowledge in digital information access, interpretation, and use. The team has enhanced the capacity of agriculture extension workers to deliver land health and weather forecast information to farmers and assist them in incorporating it into their planning to combat threats to crop production in the case of abnormal weather conditions, as well as to enhance reliable access to food in SSA. Farmers have gained knowledge on how to access and interpret real-time vegetation health data and weather forecast information for farm decision making on when to plant, harvest, dry, transport, and market their crops. They have used the training and knowledge obtained to select crop varieties to plant and target market prices for income to support food production and their livelihoods.

The project provided a large quantity of satellite imagery real-time vegetation health data for period 2015 to 2019 and a daily 16-day-ahead weather forecast that is being used for agricultural production planning and postharvest handling. Using the Facebook platform (cropWISE), the PEER team has created a network for land health and weather forecast data and information sharing. Some of the key stakeholders include the Ministry of Agriculture, Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFEE), Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI), Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), National Emergency Coordination and Operations Centre (NECOC), and the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI).

Under this project, the PI reports that they did not have enough capacity to spread and broaden the impact of land health and the daily 16-day future weather forecast information to vulnerable communities in Uganda, Zambia, and other parts of SSA. However, they will continue updating the system to function on a real-time basis. They would like to include real-time spatial irrigation needs information on both the Geo-WebGIS system and smartphone application. They are actively looking for further funding to support global concerted efforts weather risk reduction in agricultural production and enhance food security in Africa. They are currently conducting talks with relevant government agencies and nonprofits interested in a large-scale expansion of the impact of the cropWISE app to the farming community.



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