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STARS Landscaping Study Expert Workshop Montpellier

The morning of the 17th of March I woke up early. Very early. While waiting for the breakfast room to be opened I looked outside of the building and enjoyed seeing the sun rise over the historical city center of Montpellier.

I was in Montpellier to participate in the discussions around the STARS landscaping study and so I had spent the previous two days discussing the role that remote sensing technologies, data and products could play in alleviating the poverty of smallholder farmers in developing countries. To ignite and to focus the discussions, our CSIRO colleagues  introduced the Theory of Change and indicated how it could be used to identify attractive and feasible pathways to achieve a series of commonly agreed long term outcomes. The approximate 25 participants were split into subgroups to draft a theory of change that would lead to outcomes like the establishment of better financial services and insurances or the provision of trustable core remotely sensed data and products as well as key analytical functionality via cloud services. 

Through the discussion it quickly became evident that we were dealing with several complex problems, and so, the identification of the main stakeholders and beneficiaries as well as the preconditions and boundaries (area of influence)  for each of the proposed long term outcomes, it is imperative to define the required transformative actions.  All these ideas and concepts were resonating in my mind during breakfast and I concluded that I had to review all my notes and that I had to get access to the online discussion forum that was set up by CSIRO to  collect and collate more ideas over the coming 2-3 weeks so that we can finalize the theories of change.

Participants of STARS landscaping study workshop in Montpellier, 15th and 16th of March 2015.

Before I realized it was already 9:00 am and I was sitting in Agnes Begue's minivan together with four other workshop participants and heading north, to "la Maison de la Télédétection" (MTD) where she works. Agnes was so kind to organize a post-workshop tour to her institute where we could meet with her colleagues and PhD students. At the MTD, we continued our discussion about the role of remote sensing for southern Agricultures (note the plural ;-) and we got to hear about a few very interesting remote sensing projects carried out by Agnes's group.  Also, it was amazing to see the large concentration of institutes located next to the MTD : CGIAR, CIRAD, IRD, several university buildings, etc. This explains the name of that part of the city: the Agropolis.

After lunch, I went for a little walk with my friend Valerie (who just finished a post-doc at the MTD). In fact, we decided to do a small safari and visit the zoo, which is just a few minutes walk from the Agropolis. We saw giraffes, lions, white rhinos, and several kinds of antelopes that, together with the hot temperatures and relatively arid Mediterranean landscapes of Montpellier,  managed to create a wormhole that connected Montpellier with Africa …