Farmers in Mali to benefit from advanced satellite imagery technology
Images from Sentinel-2 Agriculture (Sen2-Agri1) satellite will enable scientists to help smallholder farmers by tracking changes in land use, estimating crop area and monitoring crop condition in near-real time.
A stakeholder consultation meeting was held recently to present the Sen2-Agri project to Mali stakeholders; review and collect feedback on initial Sen2-Agri products for Mali (2016 season); and understand and develop demand for three use cases:
- Improving agricultural statistics: Mali’s Cellule de Planification et de Statistiques (CPS/SDR) is responsible for the annual implementation of the permanent ‘Enquête Agricole de Conjoncture’ (EAC), and the periodic implementation of the ‘Recensement Général de l’Agriculture et de l’Élevage’ (RGAE) following a list sampling frame. In a developing economy with high land use change dynamics, Sen2-Agri may unlock a number of improvements such as the use of area sampling frames.
- Enhancing yield forecasts: Earth observation performs a central role in statistical estimation of crop area and yields. However, in smallholder agriculture these estimates are strongly constrained by spatial resolution. In Africa, the advent of Sentinel-2 increased the percentage of farm plots amenable to earth observation monitoring from 20% to 70%. This is a quantum leap in the granularity and temporality of observations, allowing earth observation to transition from a research effort to an operational production process.
- Scaling agricultural insurance: The Sentinel missions provide an unprecedented opportunity to monitor crop condition in near-real time. They also hold potential for the monitoring at scale of smallholder agronomic practice and damage to crops. This will support the development of smallholder agricultural indemnity insurance alongside traditional weather and area yield index insurance. Sen2-Agri will thus help design and test new portfolios of socially differentiated insurance products to open business opportunities in smallholder markets.
Sen2-Agri builds on the capabilities of the Sentinel-2 mission, providing multispectral images with 10 m resolution on a five-day repeat cycle2. The Sentinel program is part of a series of earth observation missions, managed by the European Space Agency (ESA).
During the consultation meeting, the products and services of Sen2-Agri were demonstrated to users of the agricultural community.
The four products of Sen2-Agri include:
- Monthly cloud-free surface reflectance composites
- Dynamic cropland masks
- Main cultivated crop type maps at the middle and at the end of the cropping season
- Vegetation status indicators (vegetation index, leaf area index).
These products (with up to 100 data points) can be provided on any smallholder farm, at an interval of every 5 days in the absence of cloud cover. Building on the experience, partnerships and legacy from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded STARS project (Spurring a Transformation for Agriculture through Remote Sensing: 2014-2016), ICRISAT and partners successfully registered Mali as one of the three worldwide Sen2-Agri country pilots alongside Ukraine and South Africa. The pilot system covers about 500,000 sq km and represents a raw volume of approximately 4 terabytes of imagery per season.
At the meeting, Mr Abdrahamane Kouyate, Deputy Director General, SabuNyuman Assurances, stressed the enormous promise of Sen2-Agri for the deployment of smallholder crop insurance, given its potential for monitoring recommended agricultural practices and thus isolating the actual impact of insurable hazards.
Dr Pierre Sibiry Traore, National Pilot Coordinator(Sen2-Agri), commented on the transformative power of Sen2-Agri, stating that the era of data scarcity was over, and that a paradigm shift was required to mainstream earth observation in agricultural and development practice – from the ‘first mile’ to the national scale, and back.
The National Stakeholders Consultation was hosted by ICRISAT-Mali on 21 March. It was co-chaired by HE Mrs Dicko Bassa Diané, Deputy Minister in charge of Food Security, and attended by 75 participants including representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture and of Livestock and Fisheries and from non-governmental, public and private sectors.