Geoinformation, monitoring and assessment Environment

Posted November 1997

FAO activities: Agricultural Applications

Overview | Environmental monitoring | Agriculture | Forestry and fisheries | Projects, training, publications | Cooperation


The main emphasis has been on the systematic enhancement of the national capacities of existing institutes whose mandate lies in information on environment, remote sensing, natural resources and mapping. With one exception all projects have been conducted in the field with national counterparts participating in the design, implementation and training components of the projects. Tendency during the reporting period has been to implement projects whose operational capacity has been vital to larger programmes. In this context, the Monitoring, Forecasting and Simulation of the Nile Basin, a USAID funded programme, has demonstrated an advanced state-of-the-art ability to collect information (rainfall) on a river basin level and relate it to localised run-off and infiltration as components of a model to estimate the flows of the Nile River into Lake Nasser. Through the effective development of an operational remote sensing capacity to receive Meteosat satellite imagery for the Blue and White Nile data, Meteosat derived rainfall information is calibrated and fed into forecasting models to provide up to three weeks advanced notice of river flow at critical points along the Blue Nile.

Egypt has also been the focal point for two other important institution building projects assisted by FAO. The first project is located at the Desert Research Centre, which has now become part of the ESA integrated TIROS network of ground-stations supplying users with Local Area Coverage NOAA imagery. The Centre now has the capacity to monitor the delicate ecological balance of Egyptian rangelands. It will also supply data to the Observatoire du Sahara et du Sahel (OSS) programme. The second project is located at the Soil and Water Research Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture. As a result of significant strengthening of its remote sensing capacity, the Institute has expanded monitoring of renewable natural resources in Egypt. Remote sensing is also used for operational soils mapping within the Delta and regular crop acreage estimates are made for the major crops each season. The Institute has also attracted considerable additional resources on a bilateral basis from Canada and France to further enhance its mapping and agricultural statistics reporting capacity.

In Côte d'Ivoire, FAO has contributed to the establishment of a Remote Sensing Laboratory at the Institute for Tropical Geography (ITG) of the University of Abidjan.

In Afghanistan, a project for land cover inventory at 1:100,000 and 1:250,000 scales, based on satellite remote sensing, is now completed, funded by UNDP. It provides the basis for assessing the change in area cultivated/lost during the 13 years war. The historical perspective of land-use changes has been provided from existing maps and photographs which have been digitised and will be compared with the current situation. A digital database on change in land utilisation will assist staff in identifying priority areas for the rehabilitation programme. As a result of the project a complete new set of geometrically corrected Landsat TM photomaps has been created which will provide the basis for resource inventory and planning for years to come.

The rapid expansion of illicit crop cultivation has also prompted the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) to sponsor a research programme for their detection with FAO. The project is utilising multi-sensor (Landsat TM, SPOT, Soyuz data) and multi-date imagery combined with detailed ground control survey of known fields. Its result is a database of physical parameters related to illicit crop cultivation in three Provinces of Afghanistan and in Lebanon. In a holistic study initiated by UNDCP and undertaken by FAO, an attempt was made to determine the potential role of remote sensing technologies for the inventory and monitoring of the extent of illicit crop cultivation. A detailed report on this desk study has been published by FAO and UNDCP in late 1996.

In Slovenia, FAO is assisting the Government in designing an integrated action plan for reforming the cadastre and land valuation system. Similarly, FAO is assisting the Government of Yemen in the development of an environmental information system for the collection, analysis and evaluation of natural resources of the country, thus facilitating data collection, management and distribution of existing and new data and establishing a trained manpower base.

In Argentina, FAO has been assisting the Federal Secretariat of Agriculture as well as the Province of Buenos Aires in developing operational capacities for agricultural applications of remote sensing and GIS.

In Brazil, FAO has introduced remote sensing methodology for estimation of areas of irrigated rice plantations in the Rio Grande do Sul as well as for assessment of soil erosion in the Parana State.

In Ecuador, FAO assisted in development of remote sensing methodology for early detection, assessment and monitoring of "critical areas" in respect to land use changes. The availability of real-time remote sensing data from the satellite data receiving station in Cotopaxi further strengthens the impact of this project.

In Belize, a development of institutional remote sensing capacity for land cover mapping at 1:50,000 scale and for map revisions, is now nearing completion. The project benefited from close cooperation with the National Geographic Institute of Mexico.

In a programme to assist small island states, the Service, in cooperation with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), has assisted in development of an Agricultural Land Information System for Barbados based on colour aerial photography at 1:10,000 scale, photointerpretation and GIS.

Soil Resources

Projects for land resources appraisal, management and conservation in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland and Grenada have applied remote sensing data in land resources survey, mapping and evaluation. The Land and Water Division collaborates with the Remote Sensing Centre and other relevant services in FAO on the development of computer-based tools for analyzing and disseminating remote sensing data and information products in the organization of seminars, training courses and workshops. FAO recommends the use of GPS in surveys and integration of remote sensing data into GIS-based land resources information systems in order to broaden the range of applications. Further, FAO considers using remote sensing to assess and monitor progress of soil and water conservation works carried out in the field within the framework of World Food Programme-assisted national programmes. An Interdepartmental Working Group was established on land use and land cover planning, in cooperation with UNEP ad UNESCO.

Pest and Diseases

Subsequent to earlier studies relating ARTEMIS NDVI data sets to tsetse fly distributions and land utilisation types in Togo and Nigeria by FAO in cooperation with the University of Oxford, an operational information system to define policies for African Animal Trypanosomiasis (AAT) control was established.

Contributions of remote sensing to the analysis of the tsetse problem were multifold. Both NDVI and Cold Cloud Duration facilitated the discrimination of tsetse distributions and NDVI data were also useful to depict areas where diseased cattle are concentrated. Tsetse and trypanosomiasis maps considered in conjunction with data layers on land use showed that man and livestock avoid areas most heavily infested by tsetse flies.

A discriminant analysis methodology was used to discern AAT from the other factors influencing the distribution of man and livestock. Indication are that the tsetse presence in variable degrees affects the availability of animal draught power. In some areas the consequences are severe and the integration of crop and livestock production lags far behind its potential. This information is put into practical use when FAO advises Member Countries and Donor organizations on the tsetse and trypanosomiasis control schemes which are most supportive to sustainable agricultural and rural development. Remote sensing is used to define technical concepts for tsetse control in countries where high resolution satellite images are available to discern land utilization types.

Agricultural Statistics

A good knowledge of cultivated areas and agricultural production is indispensable to major policy decisions concerning development plans, regional planning, trade-balance management and food-aid management. Conventional agricultural statistics are based on a population sampling design and traditional surveys.

Satellite imagery can be used for geographical stratification (sub-division in homogenous land units), area sampling frame, regression estimate and area sampling survey. Local conditions define uses of remote sensing. About ten developing countries now try to use these techniques with the support of FAO. A project is starting in Morocco with the support of the Service.

To: FAO Remote Sensing, Geographic Information System and Agrometeorological Activities
Overview | Environmental monitoring | Agriculture | Forestry and fisheries | Projects, training, publications | Cooperation

Back to Top FAO Homepage