The GEOGLAM Crop Monitor for Early Warning (CM4EW) was developed in 2016 in response to the need for timely and science-driven information on global crop conditions and to provide an early warning of potential production shortfalls for the most vulnerable regions that are at high risk of acute or chronic food insecurity. The main objective of the GEOGLAM CM4EW is to exchange information across the international community, build consensus, and reduce uncertainty surrounding global crop condition assessments in support of agricultural and humanitarian decision making.To meet this need, CM4EW releases monthly crop condition bulletins in partnership with the main agricultural monitoring agencies that are based on a number of resources from satellite-based Earth observations such as vegetation and soil moisture indices and meteorological information, as well as critical information from field observations and ground reports. This collaborative effort is supported and funded in part by NASA Harvest, with contributions from partner and affiliate organizations: ARC, Asia RiCE, EC JRC, FAO, FEWS NET, IGAD ICPAC, UCSB CHC, and WFP.
While the monthly reports are a major step forward for global crop monitoring as they provide a monthly international consensus on current crop-growing conditions, a further need for additional information beyond the regular monthly reporting period was identified by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in 2018 due to intermittent and often unforeseen threats to crop production resulting from changing environmental conditions, weather, or natural disasters which require enhanced, in-depth, and rapid analysis of developing conditions. In response to this additional data need, the Crop Monitor Special Reports were developed to rapidly provide critical, science-based, consensus information on developing threats to crop production including droughts, floods, and extreme events that are likely to result in yield shortfalls with critical food security outcomes. Since the commencement of this rapid response reporting mechanism, the Crop Monitor Special Reports have supported national and regional agencies and humanitarian organizations in their relief response, strategy, and planning.
Video showing flooding impacts on agricultural areas in Naivasha, Kenya. Source: Hannah Maina [Sub-County Agricultural Officer Naivasha]
The year 2020 in particular has brought numerous threats to crop production across various regions. Both East Africa and South Asia have been hit by a triple threat of devastating floods, desert locust infestations, and COVID-19 impacts, while areas of Southern Africa faced concerns over drought, water shortages for irrigation, and COVID-19 impacts. In times of international crisis and heightened uncertainty with numerous threats to crop production, there is an even greater need for more frequent and detailed reports that represent an international consensus to reduce speculation and provide earlier warning of potential production shortfalls. The Crop Monitor Special Reports provide deeper insight into developing threats to crop production and potential food shortages by contributing timely and accurate information that is vital to governments, humanitarian agencies, and decision-makers responsible for implementing policies in response to food shortages.
Since March 2018, several Crop Monitor Special Reports have been published that provide key insight to developing threats to agricultural production in vulnerable regions. In 2020 alone, Crop Monitor reported on topics including the developing early-season drought in Southern Africa affecting main season crops, Zimbabwe’s record drought and worsening food security concerns, East Africa flood impacts on agricultural production from the record 2020 seasonal rains, and heavy flooding in August and September over the main agricultural producing areas in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with potentially severe food security outcomes. Armed with reliable satellite data and information provided by the Special Reports, agricultural stakeholders can better prepare mitigation and relief efforts and ensure that their communities will not go hungry.
For example, the May 2020 Crop Monitor Special Report on Eastern Africa’s record seasonal rainfall and flooding provided vital and necessary consensus-based updates on developing flood impacts across the region. The March to May (MAM) rainfall period in East Africa was one of the wettest the region has seen since 1981, following an already record wet 2019 October to December (OND) rainfall period. The early onset of rains and above-average rainfall promoted land preparation and planting activities, the abundant rains also caused flooding, mudslides, flashfloods, and river overflows causing casualties, population displacement, infrastructure damage, and crop damage in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and Yemen.
This report was used as a key resource in the development of East Africa’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) 2020 Food Security and Nutrition Response Strategy Report. “IGAD Food Security and Nutrition Response Strategy (2020) came at a critical time when the region was facing a cocktail of challenges. Floods, desert locust and COVID-19 were threatening food security. The Crop Monitor Special Report provided an extra analysis tool on the most affected areas by the floods at the time and the impacts of the floods which were key information to the strategy. To design interventions and impact on food security, it was critical to understand the numbers of the most affected by floods such that humanitarian action could be well planned for risk management and for maximum impact to the livelihoods on the local populations,” says NASA Harvest partner Kenneth Mwangi [IGAD ICPAC].
The most recent Special Report on heavy rains and flooding in August 2020 in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is another example of how satellite data and community consensus shed light on flood impacts to the primary rice-producing provinces in the country with what could be disastrous food security outcomes. Record rainfall in August was followed by three Typhoons that traversed the Korean Peninsula from the end of August through the start of September that brought additional heavy rainfall, leading to flooding and landslides that caused widespread damage to food-producing farmlands in the southern “Cereal Bowl” of DPRK, where the majority of food is produced. In addition, the rains caused infrastructure damage in some regions and also broke a levee which increased flooding in surrounding crop areas. While local news sources reported that DPRK leader Kim Jong-un noted that the damage was smaller than expected after his visit to an affected village, the Crop Monitor Special Report was able to provide an early look at farmland impacts and raise the alarm for potential threats to early-season cereal yields that could worsen an already tenuous food security situation in the county following two back-to-back poor cropping seasons and a reported 40 percent of the population reported to be food insecure in 2019, prior to impacts from COVID-19 restrictions and flood damage.
The Crop Monitor Special Reports are widely shared and used in many different agricultural sectors, from government organizations to academia to private industry and serve as a timely, reliable, and globally agreed-upon source of information for current crop conditions. The most recent report on DPRK flooding has garnered particular attention as this region can be difficult to access, referenced in over 14 local and national media outlets including:
*Note: some sources listed above are not available in the English language.
The real-world usage of the GEOGLAM Crop Monitor for Early Warning extends beyond borders, providing a neutral global perspective of current crop conditions with input from partners around the world. This collaborative effort is representative of what is possible to achieve when the agricultural community comes together with a common goal, serving the interests of farmers, policy makers, and a wide range of other agricultural stakeholders.
To learn more and view the Crop Monitor Special Reports and monthly Crop Monitor Bulletins, visit https://cropmonitor.org/.