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05.19.2015

AgriSense-Africa STARS Tracks Impact of Late Rains on Crops in Central and Northern Tanzania

A primary goal of the University of Maryland (UMD)-lead AgriSense-Africa STARS project is developing and providing remote sensing observation tools in combination with new tools for field data collection to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives of Tanzania (MAFC) whilst building capacity to use them. The novelty of AgriSense-Africa’s tools and methods are already being appreciated at MAFC. One of the tools is the GLAM-East Africa system, which provides satellite remote sensing observations from the MODIS sensor for tracking and monitoring crop conditions. The NDVI time series produced by the GLAM-East Africa system (UMD Global Agricultural Monitoring System, customized for this project to Tanzania and East Africa) showed unusually poor vegetation conditions in central and northern Tanzania three weeks into the main growing season, which in this area usually starts at the end of February. Figure A shows the NDVI time series graph for Same District in northern Tanzania in comparison to the long term average and the standard deviation. Figure B shows a UAV overflight image from March 18, 2015 over one of AgriSense-Africa’s study sites in the same district with bare earth and limited amounts of dry-planted fields, illustrating the poor conditions. Below-normal crop conditions and late development due to the delayed start of the rains are also evident in other regions across the country including Singda, Arusha, Simuyu and Morogoro and as such, the MAFC prospects of good harvest for the affected regions are low for this growing season.

  • Figure: A shows significantly below average NDVI during the main growing season in Same District in northern Tanzania. The current season is shown in red, the long-term average from 2000-2015 is shown in purple and the dotted lines represent the standard deviation over the same time period. Figure B shows a natural-color UAV image obtained over the AgriSense study site in Same District with still bare soils three weeks into the main growing season. Figure: A shows significantly below average NDVI during the main growing season in Same District in northern Tanzania. The current season is shown in red, the long-term average from 2000-2015 is shown in purple and the dotted lines represent the standard deviation over the same time period. Figure B shows a natural-color UAV image obtained over the AgriSense study site in Same District with still bare soils three weeks into the main growing season.


This critical spatially explicit information provided through GLAM-East Africa can be used free of charge and crop analysts at MAFC can use it in their day-to-day monitoring. Catherine Nakalembe, a doctoral candidate at UMD and Jan Dempewolf, Assistant Research Professor at UMD, are training food security analysts at MAFC to use this system for complimenting, validating and confirming field reports.