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GEOGLAM

Land  |  17 June, 2021  |  Reading time: 5 minutes
An insight into Space4Climate members’ expertise supporting climate adaptation innovations for global food security, including the new Essential Agricultural Variables to be announced in the next year and an agricultural monitoring system for South Africa.

The Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) is a G20 initiative to increase food commodity market transparency and improve food security. GEOGLAM provides two global services – the AMIS Crop Monitor and the Crop Monitor for Early Warning – as well as supporting numerous national and regional monitoring systems.  GEOGLAM co-develops its services with relevant partner organisations.

The AMIS Crop Monitor focuses on the four major food types traded as commodities: wheat, maize, soybean and rice. It covers over 80% of global production occurring in 49 countries.  This service has been operating since 2013 and was co-developed with the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS).

The Crop Monitor for Early Warning focuses on countries at risk of famine and where advanced warning of potential food shortages provides the necessary time to trigger action by humanitarian and aid organisations.  This service was launched in 2016 and covers many of the countries not covered by the AMIS Crop Monitor.

Based on the success of these global services, GEOGLAM has supported the co-development of national and regional agricultural monitoring services. These national and regional services are developed and operated by the relevant countries and/or policy decision makers. Strengthening these monitoring systems has also helped to increase the accuracy of the global services.

Application

Both AMIS and the Early Warning Crop Monitors issue monthly reports, with the Early Warning Crop Monitor additionally issuing special reports on an ad hoc basis so they can provide timely information on severe emerging threats. The monitoring reports are based on a combination of satellite and local (in-situ) observations. GEOGLAM uses consensus as a method to converge the different data sources and to build trust amongst partners. Partners from 44 organisations (AMIS Crop Monitor) and 14 organisations (Early Warning Crop Monitor) come together each month to discuss discrepancies between data sources and to find agreement on what to include in the report. This fusion of perspectives builds confidence in the service which means that decision makers trust the information provided.

In development

  • Essential Agricultural Variables (EAVs). These are variables that represent the critical information required to characterise agricultural production. The creation of these variables will help facilitate the inclusion of satellite data into a wider variety of agricultural production and food systems work. The EAVs should be announced in the next 12 months.
  • In-situ data. In-situ data is needed to improve the interpretation of satellite data. The collection and use of these data need to be done in a considered, coordinated and cohesive approach taking into account ethical, political, legal and logistical considerations. GEOGLAM has convened a working group on this topic.
  • Climate Adaptation. GEOGLAM is supporting countries to develop guidance on using satellite data for agricultural monitoring. This guidance will contribute to a country’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP), a process established under the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). NAPs are a way for countries to identify their medium/long-term adaptation needs and to develop and implement strategies and programmes to address those needs.

UK involvement

The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is supporting GEOGLAM’s climate adaptation work supporting the UNFCCC process. Specifically, Defra has contributed to the development plan of the GEO Knowledge Hub and implementation of an agricultural monitoring service for South Africa. This latter service was developed by ESA building on the Sen2Agri system and using Amazon’s cloud computing service. It is designed to be usable in settings with limited computing expertise and capacity.

Defra, UK Space Agency and the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) set up a UK joint Office for GEO and CEOS (Committee for Earth Observation Satellites), which coordinates the involvement of UK scientists in GEO and CEOS working groups and initiatives. In 2020, Professor Philip Lewis from University College London and NCEO was appointed UK representative to GEOGLAM. If you would like to be involved in GEOGLAM, please contact the UK GEO/CEOS Office at GEO_CEOS@nceo.ac.uk.

Team insight

Professor Philip Lewis

Philip Lewis is Professor of Remote Sensing in the Department of Geography at University College London and NCEO. His group at NCEO-UCL uses the physics of how radiation (optical and radar) is scattered and absorbed by plants to interpret satellite observations and link them to models of how plants grow. He is currently leading work with colleagues in the UK, China and Ghana to develop a wheat/maize monitoring and yield prediction system for China and translate this to Ghana. He was awarded the 2019 Newton Prize (Chair’s award) for Building Capacity for Food-Crop Monitoring in Ghana Using Earth Observation.

He says: “Satellite data lets us measure how crops grow and already plays a key part in supporting global food security. We can do so much more as we work together to share knowledge, vision, data, tools and best practice. GEOGLAM is an amazing community effort to enable scientists and practitioners around the world to do this and be involved in developing the future of agricultural monitoring. I would encourage everyone working, or thinking of working, in this area to get involved. There are so many ways you can contribute.”

 “GEOGLAM is an amazing community effort to enable scientists and practitioners around the world to do this and be involved in developing the future of agricultural monitoring. I would encourage everyone working, or thinking of working, in this area to get involved” Professor Philip Lewis