Plagued by erosion, salt-water intrusion and irregular rainfall, Gambia’s crops and land cover are being mapped on multiple satellites in a pilot project to understand agricultural practices and document year-to-year changes.
The radar satellite mapping is being done by European Space Agency and Swiss Earth observation service provider Sarmap with the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development, according to a report in Red Orbit.
Africa’s poorest country and the smallest on its mainland, Gambia is being mapped by Japan’s ALOS satellite, the Cosmo-SkyMed mission and historical data from European Space Agency’s Envisat, the report says.
Gambia is named after the river that crosses it from east to west. Special effort is being placed on helping farmers in the lowlands close to the river to increase rice production. Rice is a staple in the country.
Progress since the launch of this pilot project a few months ago has been remarkable, says Ides de Willebois, director of IFAD’s West and Central Africa Division.
“Results will show the impact of … intervention in rice production since the beginning of the project, as well as provide relevant and baseline data for other projects in the country,” he said in the report. “It gives us hard evidence that we can use in policy dialogue with the government and other donors. This helps us mobilize more resources to invest in smallholder agriculture, thus boosting economic growth that is sustainable and inclusive.”
ESA, Sarmap and IFAD are also working to educate rural field technicians on how to collect crop information for validating space-based maps to ensure their accuracy.
The Gambia effort is one of 30 separate projects that ESA is carrying out with small European service providers to demonstrate the benefits of Earth observation in developing countries, the report says.