Action Against Desertification

FAO helps Eastern Africa to track land degradation

Action Against Desertification workshop on land monitoring software Collect Earth


Addis Ababa – The fight against desertification cannot be won without understanding the state of land use and land degradation, experts from Eastern Africa stressed at a technical workshop held from 27 to 31 May 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Advanced monitoring tools using the latest satellite technologies are key to inform policymaking and help to conserve the environment, while intensifying agricultural production and productivity.

The workshop was organised by Action Against Desertification, a major FAO restoration programme, and aimed at collecting biophysical data on Africa’s Great Green Wall and at developing national capacities in the use of Collect Earth, a free and open land monitoring software developed by FAO.

“FAO continues to support the fight against climatic change and desertification through initiatives such as the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) and the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI),” said David Phiri, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa and Representative to the AU and UNECA. “These initiatives help people regain their ability to grow food, they provide green jobs and income opportunities. They also tackle some of the root causes of migration and respond to climate change.”

Monitoring and evaluation are critical elements of FAO’s land restoration efforts. They enable to plan and assess restoration work and to measure its bio-physical and socio-economic impact. Under Action Against Desertification, data gathering on drylands has revolutionized. For the first time, it has become possible to get a clear picture of the extent of land degradation in Africa and to measure progress towards land degradation neutrality.

Danilo Mollicone, FAO’s Forest and Climate Officer in charge of the workshop, said that Collect Earth is of paramount importance for countries to understand the challenges they face and to find ways to respond to them. “Collect Earth uses high resolution satellite images to assess and analyse the state of crop and grass lands, forests and mountains, as well as arid and semi-arid zones,” he said, adding: “It will enable countries to manage their natural resources more sustainably and to produce more food, as well as to comply with international obligations to protect the environment.”

Abdulfatah A. Arab, a trainee in charge of the Great Green Wall from Djibouti’s Ministry of Landscape Planning, Environment and Tourism, said that Collect Earth is vital to keep track of Djibouti’s progress in terms of land restoration and in fulfilling its commitment to the Great Green Wall initiative. "Collect Earth allows us to collect up-to-date information about our environment and how it changes in a more efficient and participatory manner. We use it for the Great Green Wall and other initiatives to understand the ecosystem and to develop mechanisms to protect it,” noted Arab.

About the workshop

The technical workshop, organised in the framework FAO’s support to the Great Green Wall initiative, brought together over fifteen national experts from Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and the Sudan, as well as experts from partner organizations. The experts were trained to assess, analyse and report land uses and desertification levels, using the newly customized Collect Earth. They also formulated action plans to pursue and complement the assessment of plots at country and regional levels.

About Collect Earth

Collect Earth is a free and open source software for land monitoring developed by FAO. The software is part of a set of tools called Open Foris, developed with Google EarthBing Maps and Google Earth Engine. Collect Earth assists users to analyse high and very high-resolution satellite imagery to support forest inventories, land use, land use change, and to monitor agricultural land and urban areas.