How G4AW is Leveraging Satellite Data to Enhance Food Production in Uganda

The Europe-Africa Space Earth Observation High-Level Forum is a hybrid event that took place in Lisbon, on 10th to 11th of June 2021. The conference brought government representatives, business leaders, and investors from Africa and Europe together to discuss how Europe and Africa can effectively collaborate on advanced earth observation (EO) and data processing systems and their applications in a user-driven approach. During the event, Ruud Grim, the Senior Advisor and Coordinator at Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW), Netherlands Space Office (NSO), explained how the G4AW is actively working to achieve this. 

The program stimulates sustainable food production, more efficient use of water in developing countries, and aims to alleviate poverty by enhancing sustainable economic growth and self-reliance in the G4AW partner countries. Ruud mentioned that G4AW provides a platform for partnerships between private and public organizations. Together they provide food producers with relevant information, advice, or (financial) products.

He also spoke about the organization’s goal for 2025 which is focused on building enabling policy and framework, catalyzing sustainable and resilient African food markets, and scaling up access to digital climate advisory services. 

Ruud also shared some of their initiatives including the drought insurance in Uganda and Mali, the satellite data application for Ugandan farmers, and much more. 

Drought insurance in Uganda and Mali (SUM Africa)

Farming is a major source of sustenance for people residing in the remote areas in Uganda and Mali, and they are particularly powerless to the adverse effect of climate change.

The G4AW launched an initiative to provide smallholder farmers with satellite-based drought index insurance. The Ugandan Agro Insurance Consortium (AIC) and the Environmental Analysis and Remote Sensing (EARS) company signed an agreement to continue providing the service to the smallholder farmers in Mali and Uganda.

Agricultural Index insurance covers the conditions that lead to losses such as drought, rainfall, frost, or even sunshine rather than the actual loss. The drought index, for instance, pays out based on the level of a predetermined drought index. Information from satellites enables independent and continuous monitoring of climatic conditions for crop growth and the farmer is insured against adverse climatic conditions that cause losses. This information is used by insurance companies for risk assessment, insurance pricing, and pay-out calculation.

Farmers with insurance can access loans needed for acquiring the necessary tools and inputs- pest-resistant crops, fertilizers, etc. that improve their resilience to adverse weather conditions and increase their yields. Building from the success of the maiden project in Mali and Uganda, EARS has spread this initiative to 18 other countries.

Since the commencement of this initiative in 2014, SUM Africa has insured about 70,000 coffee farmers against weather-related losses in Uganda. However,  it has proven more difficult to achieve the same level of uptake in Mali, due to lack of infrastructure and security issues. SUM Africa aims to enable 150,000 farmers in both countries to benefit from satellite-based index insurance by 2021.

Mobile User-Owned ICT4 Ag-Enabled Information Services (MUIIS) Uganda

The MUIIS project is one of the bigger projects within the G4AW initiative managed by NSO, where satellite data is used to contribute to food security. About 250,000 small-scale Ugandan farmers have registered for eligibility for a combination of agricultural advice information and financial services. After three years of a project status that included financial support by the Netherlands, the service will now continue under its own steam.

Small-scale farmers in Uganda receive location-specific weather information, agricultural advice, market information and drought insurance on their mobile phones. To be eligible for this offer, the farmers need to pay UGX 20,000 (about USD 6) per growing season. In addition to the information sent directly to the farmer’s mobile phones, they are included in a digital database with data about the farmer, the family, their possessions and production results. This information is important for financial service providers to improve their ability to estimate risk. This means the ‘profiled’ farmers can get a loan more easily, indirectly guaranteed by the Netherlands Rabobank Foundation.

European geostationary meteorological satellites, the rain radar, and daily MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) data by NASA are used to collect the satellite data.

The result shows that maize farmers who use the advice can harvest up to 67% more than farmers who do not take part. This could mean a rise in income of 70%. The latest report indicates that just 3,200 farming families have subscribed to the program. The low turnout has been attributed to the lack of knowledge about an insurance policy by the smallholder farmers. More than 70% of the country is into farming activities and the success recorded by the previous farmers should be enough to bring more farmers on board.