NASA Harvest and IICA enhance capacities for the use of technological tools that will improve agricultural statistics and the monitoring of climate impacts in the countries of the Americas
San Jose, 12 June 2023 (IICA) One hundred officials from more than ten Latin American and Caribbean countries whose work is connected to the generation of agricultural statistics increased their expertise in the use of digital tools, especially remote sensing, with a view to improving national agricultural estimates and the monitoring of extreme weather impacts on agriculture in this region.
They did so at a technical workshop organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and NASA Harvest, NASA’s Global Food Security and Agriculture Consortium, led by researchers from the University of Maryland.
NASA Harvest´s mission is to assist public and private organizations in adopting Earth observation as a means to promote food security, agriculture, and human and environmental resilience by enabling governments and producers to access science-based information for decision-making.
At the meeting, entitled “The use of digital tools in national agricultural statistics and in monitoring the impact of extreme weather events,” NASA Harvest specialists presented the main free-access tools available to countries in the region, namely: the Global Agriculture Monitoring System, the AGMET Tool, CROP Monitor and the Global Crop Monitor.
In addition to data for early warnings, these platforms provide information on crop conditions, development and health, areas under cultivation, and agro-climatic status and conditions that may affect production in countries vulnerable to food insecurity. Their purpose is to improve actions and policies targeting agriculture, human intervention and food security, among others.
“A wide variety of options exists, there are many satellites and sensors with different resolutions and great potential for addressing agricultural and climate change issues,” pointed out Estefania Puricelli, agricultural economist and Co-lead of Markets and Trade at the University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences.
“Creating opportunities like these to share knowledge is extremely important, the use of these tools in the different countries is very heterogeneous and a lot of cooperation among them is possible. Countries that have made more progress can collaborate with those that are just starting out or have reached an intermediate stage in the process, because the regions are similar, as are their limitations. We try to listen to their needs in order to be able to work from there,” Puricelli added.
The workshop also focused on the strategic importance of estimates for national economies and finances, the design of policies, and global food security.
“IICA regards the use of satellite data to monitor agriculture as a matter of strategic importance for its 34 member countries, for example, in relation to the impact of climate issues or any other variable. We aim to help them build their capacity to compile agricultural statistics,” commented Federico Bert, manager of the Institute’s Digitalization of Agrifood Systems Program.
“There are many tools available, and it is vital to standardize criteria in the countries, standards for the use of the applications available,” he added.
The IICA-NASA Harvest workshop took place within the framework of Digital Agriculture Week 2023, a space for dialogue and collective action promoted by the Institute, which aims to drive dynamic, inclusive agrifood digitalization in the Americas.
It forms part of a series of IICA activities in areas identified as a priority for the transformation of agrifood systems and aimed at creating an inter-American alliance for food security and sustainable development.
At the two-day meeting, the participants presented examples of the use of digital remote-sensing tools and agricultural statistics systems in Argentina, Ecuador and El Salvador.
The representatives of the government agencies responsible for these issues in each country all agreed on the need for more funding, capacity building to improve access to, and the use of, the technological tools available, and closer links with decisionmakers in order to secure further support and investment in the areas concerned.
“Making intensive use of digital technologies has allowed us to significantly reduce the uncertainty surrounding agricultural estimates. Demand for products of this kind is growing, particularly from organizations linked to environmental monitoring,” said Fernando Monti, who works for the Agricultural Estimates Office of Argentina’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.
“It is extremely useful to know what our countries have available. Partnerships are needed to gain access to satellite images, given the financial constraints that exist in many cases. Better tools and training are very useful for crop monitoring,” added Sergio Rafael López, head of the Directorate of Geographic, Strategic and Risk Management Information at Guatemala’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food.
Carlos Castellón, from the Agricultural Statistics Division of El Salvador’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, stressed the importance of “providing more training, increasing the expertise of the agencies concerned, and expanding research on new technological tools,” to increase the use of remote sensing in agriculture.
Blanca Simbaña, an analyst at the General Directorate for the Generation of Agricultural Geoinformation of Ecuador’s Office for the Coordination of National Agricultural Information, highlighted the need for “budget resources to purchase higher-resolution satellite images, so we can generate timely geographic information and determine crop acreages in places where plots are very small, or crops are planted on very steep terraces.”
In addition to this event, IICA, NASA Harvest and FAO will be preparing a report analyzing the current use of remote-sensing tools for agricultural estimates in the countries of the region. The aim will be to provide reference information on the situation and experiences in this area for policymakers and international organizations, among others.
“The report will create an image, hopefully with as many pixels as possible, of the situation in each country and how the technological platforms available in the region can be used more efficiently,” concluded IICA’s Federico Bert.
Institutional Communication Division.