ESA and FAO team up to tackle food security and other SDGs using satellite imagery to bridge data gaps

Information from ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have teamed up to exploit their particular fields of expertise to better address major global issues such as food security, and to take further advantage of the digital transformation in agriculture.

The new formal agreement between the two organisations paves the way to exchanging relevant expertise and to developing ways in which Earth observation satellites can be used to understand and monitor agricultural processes and food systems so that both organisation and their respective member states can better address critical concerns such as food security and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The agreement covers areas such as identifying and understanding the requirements and challenges for using satellite data in the field of agriculture and food; sharing datasets and surveys; supporting access to Earth observation datasets; and developing innovative Earth observation algorithms, products and applications making full use of the latest IT capabilities, such as cloud computing.

As well as agricultural and land-cover statistics, the agreement covers a number of additional themes, including water-related SDGs and forestry statistics.

FAO’s mandate includes providing advice to its member states on food, agriculture and the sustainable management of natural resources. It also assists developing countries to increase agricultural production in a sustainable manner, improve the efficiency in the use of land and water, and optimise the use of forestry and fisheries resources. In addition, FAO is the UN custodian agency for 21 SDG indicators related to food and agriculture and is responsible for reporting progress towards these goals.

FAO is a key partner of the 50×2030 initiative, which seeks to bridge the global agricultural data gap by transforming country data systems in 50 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America by 2030. The aim is to integrate Earth observation methods to increase the efficiency and timeliness of these national statistical surveys. Through the Sen4Sat project, ESA works with FAO and pilot National Statistical Offices to develop innovative algorithms and Earth-observation products to achieve this aim.

Images and information derived from satellites orbiting Earth are important to monitoring, reporting and making evidence-based decisions to achieve these SDG goals. Satellites can provide data to fill information gaps and contribute to improving national statistics, as well as support innovative data analytics based on synergies between field survey information and satellite observations.

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