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STARS Project

STARS at GEO event

STARS was featured during two side events of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Twelfth Plenary and Ministerial Summit, Convened in Mexico City November 9-13th, and received much positive interest and attention from a wide international community.  

What is GEO?

GEO, established in 2005, is a voluntary partnership of governments and international organizations that are working together towards coordinated comprehensive and sustained Earth observations system of systems (GEOSS) that inform decisions and actions across multiple societal benefit areas including agriculture, biodiversity, climate, disasters, ecosystems, energy, health, weather and weather. To date its member governments include 100 countries and the European Commission, and 87 participating organization comprised of international bodies with a mandate in Earth observations. 

The GEO Plenary and Ministerial Summit draws a large international audience committed to better integration and utilization of remotely sensed data for informing actions and decisions for the benefit of humanity.  As such, it was a great opportunity for the STARS teams to share their experiences and results on the use of Earth Observation (EO) in support of smallholder farmers.  

ITC Side Event

The first side event that STARS participated in was organized by ITC, and titled: Strengthening Regional Capacity Building Initiatives in Earth Observation. The event was opened by Prof. Freek Van der Meer, ITC with a welcome and discussion of the event’s objective which were to provide an overview of current EO capacity building activities of various national and regional organizations participating in GEO, discuss a shared vision on how these activities can be adapted and applied in the near term, explore the growing role of the private sector and consider ‘the last mile’ of capacity building activities in the user community’. Close to half of the session was dedicated to the STARS project, with an introductory presentation by Rolf de By, covering the vision, focus, challenges and opportunities, followed by three STARS partners. Inbal Becker-Reshef (UMD) presented on the work in Tanzania and Uganda focused on supporting agricultural decisions using EO information. Sibiry Traore, (ICRISAT) presented on outstanding challenges and new avenues in African smallholder agriculture monitoring with very high resolution remote sensing, highlighting the work in Mali and Nigeria and the UPLOAD-IT project. Urs Schulthess, (CIMMYT) discussed insights gained from their research on farmers fields with UAVs in Bangladesh and Mexico, emphasizing these as key tools for integrated monitoring of bio-physical plant and soil parameters. Other presentations included the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), which highlighted the importance of indigenous knowledge, and strengthening relationships between scientists, politicians, and the public, ensuring appropriate mechanisms for converting complex data analysis into policy relevant information. Ruud Grimm, from the Netherlands Space Office, discussed the Geodata for Agriculture and Water program focused on improving food security in developing countries, and stressed the importance of a well identified market and user community. For an overview of the program, download the ITC Side Event agenda

Inbal Becker-Reshef (UMD) presented on the work in Tanzania and Uganda focused on supporting agricultural decisions using EO information

GEOGLAM Side Event

The second side event that STARS work was highlighted in was the GEO Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) event. 

GEOGLAM was adopted by the G-20 Ministers of Agriculture, as part of the Action Plan of Food Price Volatility and Agriculture. Its objective is to reinforce the international community’s capacity to produce and disseminate relevant, timely actionable information and forecasts of agricultural production at national, regional and global scales through reinforced use of Earth Observations, including both space-based and in situ measurements. It is a voluntary and collaborative initiative building on existing networks and systems. Its Community of Practice is open and draws on the expert knowledge and experience from agricultural ministries, space agencies, universities, and industry from around the world. One of the main areas of focus for GEOGLAM is to support countries in enhancing their use of EO for national crop monitoring, while facilitating collaboration and consensus-building at regional and global levels, in support of food security and market stability. In this context, the STARS work provides a valuable contribution to GEOGLAM, and was well represented at this side event.

The side event began with a welcome from Michel Deshayes, from the GEO Secretariat. The event included a series of presentations on national and regional agricultural monitoring activities including Asia-RiCE, China CropWatch and a session dedicated to developing a Latin American regional network within GEOGLAM highlighting national monitoring activities within the region. These were followed by a presentation on STARS by Rolf de By who provided an overview of the project, its objective, activities, and partners. He discussed the project starting point- spatial information has revolutionized agriculture in high income countries but not in low income countries, and explained the goal of STARS is to learn and identify opportunities, constraints and risks, for exploiting the range of very high to coarse resolution EO technologies in support of livelihoods of smallholders. He ended with some recent results that demonstrate the value of timely information in support of agricultural decision making. STARS activities and outcomes were also highlighted in a presentation by Inbal Becker-Reshef on the GEOGLAM Crop Monitor, an activity which produces monthly crop condition reports that reflect an international consensus. She highlighted new results from the STARS work, adapting the Crop Monitor to Tanzania leading to the prototyping of a crop condition bulletin by the Ministry of Agriculture, and the development of an Early Warning Crop Monitor, which is coordinating crop condition reports from national and international agencies monitoring countries at risk of food insecurity. Other topics that were covered in the side event were EO data acquisition and coordination with the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, research and development activities including the Joint Experiment on Crop Assessment and Monitoring (JECAM), which a few of the STARS sites contribute to, and the Simulating Innovation for Global Monitoring of Agriculture (SIGMA) project, a European Commission funded project. The session closed with a panel discussion on GEOGLAM Implementation and future directions.

Participants during the GEOGLAM session

Both sessions were a success, drawing a diverse international audience interested in the STARS activities and outcomes.

More information on the ITC side event can be found here

More information on the GEOGLAM side event can be found here.