Agriculture in Africa is mainly rain-fed and this results in low productivity and food insecurity (Gassner et al. 2019). Food security is further exacerbated by a changing climate with increasing temperatures, diminishing yearly rainfall, and worsening extreme events such as drought and floods (Nhamo et al. 2019). Earth observation is increasingly being identified as an essential enabler in addressing food insecurity, both in Africa and the world over (Karthikeyan et. 2020).
It is in this regard, on December 6,2022, the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board hosted the launch of the Information for Agriculture and Food Security Project that was organized by The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), DE-Africa and GeoScience with funds of Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).
The workshop aimed to support consultations with relevant African agricultural agencies to identify priority information services from the Digital Earth Africa platform to support Africa’s agricultural sector and create a strategy to develop and deliver these services. Through this workshop, ASARECA identified who among its stakeholders is involved in the use of earth observation data, information, and products (GIS mapping and remote sensing, weather forecasting, land or soil suitability mapping, crop phenology modelling, water and vegetation cover monitoring, monitoring, or predicting pest or disease outbreaks besides other products and services). During the meeting, participants validated the draft stakeholder engagement plan and stakeholder map developed by the consortium partners.
It was also an opportunity to sensitize key stakeholders comprised of policy makers, GIS and Remote sensing experts, Scientists, Meteorologists and modelers about the availability and use of satellite data, products and services, its role in fostering AR4D support more effective and sustainable use of water resources for food security.
Speaking at the event, the Director General of RAB, Dr Patrick Karangwa, emphasized the need for using Earth Observation data as a key strategy to address issues related to food security. “In our very context, the timeliness of DE-Africa project is commendable, since digital system is placed as a central tool for transformation of service delivery across all the Government sectors including agriculture.” He added.
The consultative meeting convened stakeholders who use EO data in their day-to-day activities from National Agricultural Research Institutes, National Space Agencies, Department of Meteorology, Department of Climate Change, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of water, natural resources, and environment (wildlife, forestry), National Bureau of Statistics, Universities, Private sector, NGOs and Farmer organizations in Rwanda to discuss how to raise awareness on the application of earth observation data in Eastern and Southern Africa to mitigate the effects of climate change.