IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre-ICPAC has been deliberate on the organization’s goal of early warning information for early action. Agriculture and Food Security is now a sector priority area in the Greater Horn of Africa based on IGAD assessment of the region. To this end, ICPAC has now formalized its partnership with NASA Harvest.
NASA Harvest is a new, multidisciplinary Consortium commissioned by NASA and led by the University of Maryland to enhance the use of satellite data in decision making related to food security and agriculture both in the US and worldwide. ICPAC has been engaging in seasonal agriculture monitoring and early warning in the outfit of Eastern Africa Crop Monitor supported by NASA Harvest and Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa-GMES Africa programme.
On 26 June 2019, during the NASA Harvest Conference in Washington DC, the University of Maryland signed a formal MoU with ICPAC to support and collaborate on the thematic application areas of agriculture and crop monitoring, and on future atmospheric monitoring. The MoU is aimed at formal recognition of the technical cooperation. NASA Harvest chose ICPAC as a global example of an institution that utilizes Earth Observation (EO) data and tools and conducts research activities and also as a regional policy organization of IGAD. The MoU commits ICPAC and NASA Harvest (represented by University of Maryland) to working closer in applied research for a mutual benefit.
ICPAC was represented by Director Dr. Guleid Artan and witnessed by Thematic Assistant Kenneth Mwangi. NASA Harvest was represented by Dr. Inbal Becker-Reshef - Program Director of Harvest (University of Maryland) and witnessed by Dr. Christopher Justice, Chief Scientist for NASA Harvest (University of Maryland). Dr. Catherine Nakalembe from NASA Harvest and Kenneth Mwangi from ICPAC are the focal persons coordinating the activities of the MoU in the region.
During the NASA Harvest conference session, Dr. Guleid Artan noted that “the number of food insecure people in the IGAD region has been on a worrying increase. This alone is the driver of most regional challenges like peace and security and has an impact on human migration. The region needs coordinated interventions and better early warning for early action.”
The first regional crop monitor bulletin, Eastern Africa Crop Monitor, was published in May 2018. Further editions were published on September 2018, February 2019, April 2019 and most recently in June 2019. These are seasonal bulletins with information on crop conditions collected by month but summarized into the climatic season. For the purpose of enhanced regional agricultural monitoring, ICPAC and NASA Harvest will be sharing more information, technical support and capacity building in the use of satellite and weather information to enhance resilience in Eastern Africa.
Key food security related questions that ICPAC and NASA Harvest together with other partners want to answer include: What kind of crops are we growing? How much food are we growing this season? How much of it will be harvested? What interventions and early actions can be done by the different actors for food security? The new MOU between NASA Harvest and ICPAC provides an opportunity to address these questions.