FAO, DE Africa and Frontier SI Collaborate to Enhance EO Use in Africa

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Digital Earth Africa and Frontier SI have initiated a new collaboration to help African countries use Earth observations to produce land cover and crop statistics. The outcomes of this collaboration will help guide food security policy-making and thus better support countries to achieve Zero Hunger.

Through this partnership, FAO aims to upscale existing work in land cover and crop statistics using Earth observations, by taking advantage of Digital Earth Africa’s tools, services and experience to expand the implementation into a larger number of countries across Africa. The ultimate objective is for the National Statistics Offices across Africa to use the new system and by FAO’s Hand in Hand Initiative.

“Through our collaboration, we aim to create a prototype for a national system for land cover mapping which will support the generation of land cover statistics using the existing algorithms developed by FAO with the EOSTAT project”, said Lorenzo de Simone, FAO’s Geospatial Technical Adviser. “The expansion of land cover mapping capabilities through Digital Earth Africa will also support national reporting on a number of Sustainable Development Goal indicators”, he added.

In a second phase, partners will create a prototype for a national system for crop type and yield mapping to support the generation of crop acreage and yield statistics. The plan is also to build the capacity of local and regional partners in using the new systems as well as Digital Earth Africa’s tools and services.

Using Earth observations to help countries achieve the SDGs

Building on the foundations already set up by Digital Earth Africa with the Cropland Extent Map service, the identification of the location of cropped areas, crop type, crop extent and crop condition, will help users understand the current state of agriculture, predict the impact of crop supply on food security in Africa, and ultimately help decision-makers to take better-informed decisions.

This new collaboration will also support African countries in the monitoring of SDG indicators under FAO custodianship, which is directly or indirectly measurable using Earth observations data. For example, Jupyter Notebooks will be made available in the Digital Earth Africa’s sandbox for the automatic computation of SDG indicators 15.4.2 (Mountain Green Cover Index) and 15.1.1 (Forest area) from existing national land cover maps or from global products (e.g. ESA CCI, Copernicus LC100, WorldCover).

“Though not a panacea for solving all the challenges related to the immense SDG data needs, Earth observation data can significantly contribute both directly and indirectly to improving the availability, quality, and consistency of SDG indicators,” Pietro Gennari, FAO’s Chief Statistician, stated.