From hundreds of miles in orbit, NASA satellites can measure how much rain falls in Niger or detect plant health in Mali. But on the ground, many African farmers and food distributors don't have good information about the growing conditions a few dozen miles down the road.
A new program is bringing together scientists in two branches of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., as well as an African non-profit organization in order to get relevant satellite data in the hands and cell phones of people who could use it the most. The program, funded by the Advanced Collaborative Connections for Earth Systems Science program, will build on two technologies developed at Goddard to help scientists collect and track data, called LabNotes and FieldNotes.
"Putting the information in the hands of the agriculture users is one of the many ways that we can show that the satellite data has benefits to society," said Molly Brown, a research scientist with Goddard's Biospheric Sciences Laboratory.
Brown and her colleagues have already developed a 30-year dataset of satellite information on African precipitation rates, vegetation health, soil moisture and evapotranspiration all indicators of crop health in a given area. With researchers from Columbia University, N.Y. she is developing a system that can improve the way insurance companies set rates for drought protection.
That data, however, would also be key information for local farmers and food distributors who have to determine which regions have a surplus of maize, millet, rice and more and therefore which regions they should focus on to purchase excess food to sell at central markets. When distributors can buy excess food, it can encourage farmers to grow more in good years, knowing that there is a market. More food production, and more efficient distribution, could improve food security for the region.
"All the background has been done, we need to write an app
|Contact: Kate Ramsayer|
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center