Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
understanding the nature and severity of a food security problem is diverse, and includes
information on food prices, environmental conditions, trade flows and other information.
Remote sensing plays a key role in food security assessment, as it can be an early indicator
that there may be a food production problem, and is usually the least controversial, provid-
ing a focus point for negotiations and discussions among the many parties who must come
to an agreement before a response can occur (Brown et al ., 2007). The datasets that are
available for monitoring food production have expanded from information on vegetation
health in the 1980s to accurate rainfall estimates (Xie et al ., 2002), yield impact models
(Vermeulen et al ., 2012), high resolution cropped area estimations (Husak et al ., 2008) and
others that enable the continuous and multi-faceted monitoring of the growing season in
every region today (Maselli et al ., 2000; Bolton and Friedl, 2013).
The development of remote sensing systems to monitor environmental conditions pro-
vided for the first time a way to monitor current climate variations over an entire continent
for very little expense (Tucker, 1979). Before the advent of remote sensing systems, informa-
from cities and roads left unmonitored. Remote sensing information can be used to identify
widespread weather-related food production deficits. Early efforts of famine warning found
necessary physical evidence of an ongoing drought or the severity of a flood. There is large
variation in the amount of climatic stress that vulnerable groups can endure before real and
widespread destruction of livelihoods occur (Dilley, 2000). Although the physical character-
istics of crop yield reductions due to rainfall deficits can be specified, determining the impact
of this reduction on food security in the place and time that it occurs is dependent on the
context. For example, a 50 percent reduction in millet production due to erratic rainfall that
occurs after several years of good harvests is far less likely to result in sufficient food insecurity
to warrant intervention than the same reduction after several years of below-average
The example given for Niger livelihood analysis above shows the wide variety of data that
a food security assessment requires. In Table 2.2 , the social and economic data that are used
for food security assessment is presented. Table 2.3 presents the remote sensing and biophysi-
cal products regularly used for assessment of food production variability. Neither table presents
Table 3.1 for a more comprehensive list) but seeks to present the data that are available and
are actually used for food security analysis through the efforts of early warning and other
Communication of information about food security status occurs through a system of
reports that are written each month in a FEWS NET country office by the country repre-
sentative and then sent to a central office in Washington DC for posting on an internet data-
base ( ). These reports provide critical information upon which USAID makes
decisions about where to send assistance and in what form. To identify the onset of food
security crises, FEWS NET analysts use a “convergence of evidence” approach to combine
biophysical and climate information with local and regional socio-economic household liveli-
hood analysis. Specifically, in-country analysts construct an assessment of food availability
using production statistics as well as rainfall, temperature and vegetation data derived from
local measurements and from remote sensing to identify abnormally wet and dry periods
(Brown, 2008). The analysts also evaluate market conditions, threats to pastoral resources,
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