Geoinformation, monitoring and assessment Environment

Posted January 1999

Summary report

Regional Workshop for Decision-makers on Remote Sensing/GIS Applications in Agricultural and Environmental Management

Santiago, Chile
7-11 December 1998

Reported by C. Travaglia, Remote Sensing Officer, FAO Environment and Natural Resources Service (SDRN)

Context of session

The above workshop belongs to a series of activities intended to provide decision-makers with the necessary knowledge for deciding when and how remote sensing (RS) and geographic information systems (GIS) could be used in the management of natural resources. It was held in the facilities of the FAO Regional Office in Santiago, Chile, for the benefit of countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Several workshops along similar lines were held in the past in other regions/sub-regions (RAF, SEUR, RNE, SNEA), however the present workshop was the first to be implemented in RLC. Twenty-two countries submitted over one hundred official nominations of usually high level candidates, which indicates the considerable interest generated by this initiative.

Co-operation with the FAO regional projects GCP/RLA/126/JPN and GCP/RLA/127/NET made the implementation of the workshop possible. The projects covered some of the costs associated with the preparation and implementation of the workshop, assisted in the selection of participants and lecturers, and provided a very efficient local secretariat.

To enhance regional co-operation and exchange of experiences, eleven lecturers from the region were involved in the programme and invited to present specific case studies and operational applications and to participate in the discussions.

SDRN, in close co-operation with the two regional projects, prepared the workshop programme, selected the participants and lecturers, co-ordinated all technical inputs as well as the majority of the administrative aspects, provided the necessary documentation and the workshop co-ordinator.


Twenty-four participants from seventeen countries of the region attended the workshop for its full duration. Participants were mainly of the level of Director/Deputy Director/Technical Co-ordinator of Agriculture, Water and Soil Resources, Irrigation, Watershed Management, Agricultural Statistics, Land Use Planning, Environmental Planning and Protection, Natural Resources, and Forestry Departments from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Republica Dominicana, and Uruguay. Lecturers were from FAO (Headquarters and regional projects), Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Netherlands.

Programme results

The workshop was organised, according to a well tested pattern, on a five days duration subdivided into sessions covering remote sensing and GIS and their applications in forestry, water resources, agriculture and environment. Discussions concluded each session. An interesting field excursion was carried out in the Viña del Mar-Ventanas-Nogales area to show exact correlation between satellite data and a variety of land features.

The last day of the workshop was essentially dedicated to a review of satellite data availability and accessibility in the region and to the preparation of recommendations by the participants and regional lecturers subdivided into three working groups. These reports were later presented and discussed in a general session.

On the basis of participants and regional lecturers' statements and of the recommendations prepared by the three groups, the objectives of the workshop, as stated in the Workshop Information Note, have been fully met.


As indicated, the workshop was the first of this kind held in Latin America and the Caribbean region and created a considerable interest. Further, the workshop set the stage for the dissemination to a highly qualified audience of FAO recent activities and programmes (in line with the corporate communications policy and strategy) and fostered horizontal co-operation.

Participants and regional lecturers prepared three sets of useful and comprehensive recommendations for a better and expanded use of remote sensing and GIS technologies in the region. These will now be compiled in one document to be circulated to the relevant parties. Application of these technologies is at various level of development in the countries, with large gaps occurring both in term of structures and of application fields. Horizontal co-operation may assists in some cases, but external co-operation (FAO, others) is still necessary for the development of appropriate capacities and for the introduction of specific techniques/experiences.

Dissemination of relevant information in the Spanish language (i.e.: the Remote Sensing for Decision-Makers Series) and the organisation of other workshops along the same lines were considered very useful and, consequently, their implementation at the earliest possible date was strongly recommended by the meeting.

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