i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Famine and Food Security Forecasting

Posted by Simon Adebola on June 10, 2009

” A stitch in time saves nine ”

That wise saying is the reason why early warning systems are being developed and deployed. The reasons for this and its relevance to African (and indeed worldwide) food security are explained in this article here. As John Haynes, the program manager for NASA’s Applied Sciences Public Health Program notes, “Enhancing public health decision-making through remote sensing, as in the FEWS NET project, is particularly relevant due to the threat of global climate change…Climate change may exacerbate food insecurity in the 21st Century from more frequent episodes of drought or flooding, depending on the region.”

The FEWS NET Project (Famine Early Warning System Network) of which he talks about is a collaboration between NASA and its partners: the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). They provide early warning information on various issues affecting food security and famines. The website is worth visiting to learn a lot more about the issues concerned.

Estimated food security conditions, 2nd Quarter 2009 (April-June)  Source: USAID FEWS NET

Estimated food security conditions, 2nd Quarter 2009 (April-June) Source: USAID FEWS NET


The situation in many African countries calls for urgent interventions in matters pertaining to food security but the response need not be hurried with early warning systems such as these in place. Most agricultural practices in the continent are limited to subsistence farming. The changes in land use patterns can be monitored as shown here of the Gishwati Forest in Rwanda. Monitoring land use, agricultural patterns, crop yield, rainfall and other food related factors would help to position governments and policy makers in a better position to make informed choices and evidence-based decisions on matters related to agricultural planning and food security.

Space technologies are crucial in sustaining these decision support systems and there are some collaborations, such as GEOSS, that are already working on this. The coming together of governments, academia, policy makers and concerned parties as part of a global think tank would guarantee the success of such measures as these in preventing the deaths and suffering of millions that suffer annualy from the hardships imposed by droughts, famines and food shortages.

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One Response to “Famine and Food Security Forecasting”

  1. […] that early warning systems can play in shaping this adaptive response has also been discussed in another post. This post has as its focus an examination of the interactions, as often abounds in nature, between […]

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