Агропродовольственная экономика

GeoField Convening: Leveraging Earth Observation for impact evaluations in climate-sensitive agriculture


The GeoField Convening, a significant event that took place from 12 to 14 September 2023 at FAO’s headquarters in Rome, has brought together experts and professionals to delve into the world of Earth Observation and Geospatial Impact Evaluation (GIE).

GeoField, a collaboration between AidData, DevGlobal Partners, and Mercy Corps, supported by The Gates Foundation, aims to bridge the gap between climate-sensitive agriculture, Earth observation, and development programme impact evaluations. Their mission is to improve access to climate and land use data into actionable insights for aid organizations investing in agriculture and climate adaptation programmes. They conduct use cases and build a community of practice to share knowledge, showcase case studies, and enhance evaluation rigor, inviting experts in various fields to join.

In 2022, FAO's Agrifood Economics Division (ESA) collaborated with AidData to organize a capacity development programme on Geospatial Impact Evaluation. This initiative aimed to strengthen impact evaluation techniques undertaken by the Hand-in-Hand Initiative and other projects (including in the context of the Global Environment Facility [GEF] and the Green Climate Fund [GCF]), harnessing the power of the Hand-in-Hand GIS Platform and spatial data for assessing the impact of agricultural investments. Through capacity building, it empowered several projects to leverage unconventional data for evaluating innovative agricultural interventions and facilitating their expansion at the national level.

As the Director of the Agrifood Economics Division at FAO, David Laborde expressed, “The goal of GEOFIELD is highly aligned to that of FAO where we are aiming to achieve impactful climate action evaluations through interdisciplinary collaboration. The ultimate objective of these actions is not purely analytical, but rather enhancing our intervention designs which should eventually lead to the level of impacts needed given the challenges we are facing.”

Among the objectives of the meeting was to showcase FAO's significant contributions to geospatial GIE, illustrated through real-world examples such as landscape restoration project assessments and evaluations of policy changes and market impacts in agriculture. The event also stimulated thoughtful reflections on FAO's GIE experiences and effective utilization of geospatial data for this purpose. It outlined FAO's impact evaluation vision for the future, emphasizing the expansion of geospatial expertise both within the organization and through collaborative efforts. Lastly, the meeting highlighted the challenges and opportunities inherent in GIE initiatives, fostering discussions on potential methodological innovations.

One of the event’s sessions aimed to introduce the Hand-in-Hand Initiative approach, methodology and its geospatial platform. The presentation, delivered by Karl Morteo (Digitalization and Informatics Division [CSI], FAO), delved into agricultural typologies and suitability assessments, all brought to life with captivating examples and an exclusive first-hand look at the geospatial platform in action.

The GeoField Convening also featured a dedicated session on FAO’s work, moderated by Clemencia Consentino, Director of FAO Office of Evaluation (OED) and showcased a line-up of engaging presentations on papers representing FAO’s work across its technical divisions, including Evaluation of the project “Action Against Desertification in support of the implementation of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative and of the UNCCD action plans in Fiji and Haiti, and South-South cooperation in the Africa Caribbean and Pacific countries”, Greening for the greater good – The case of Action Against Desertification in Northern NigeriaThe impact of the war in Ukraine on yields in the Comoros (forthcoming) and No man is an Island: A spatially explicit approach to measure development resilience. In a separate session, ongoing work by FAO Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division (ESP) and ESA related to the analysis of high-resolution poverty data, across different spatial typologies, was delivered by Nicholas Sitko (ESP).

The GeoField Convening served as a pivotal platform for fostering invaluable discussions and facilitating the exchange of knowledge within the domains of Earth Observation and Geospatial Impact Evaluation. These efforts align seamlessly with FAO's overarching mission to propel the cause of sustainable agriculture and enhance global food security.