Global Agricultural Monitoring System of Systems
The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) / Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOL) Agricultural Monitoring Community of Practice was established in July of 2007 at the second IGOL/GEO workshop convened at the headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome. This community of practice represents twenty-five national and international organizations concerned with agricultural monitoring. Its purpose is to develop and implement a strategy for global agricultural monitoring in the framework of GEO.
A number of global trends suggest an urgent need for a comprehensive, systematic and accurate global agricultural monitoring system. More frequent extreme climate events such as floods, drought and frosts are adversely affecting agricultural production worldwide. The risk of food supply disruptions continues to grow as the earth continues to respond to pressures such as climate change, increasing energy needs, and population growth, on the land that sustains us. Understanding and monitoring global agriculture production is essential to combat both short-term and long-term threats to stable and reliable access to food for all.
Strategic investments over the next 10 years in earth observations, involving satellite observations, in-situ (ground-based) measurements and survey could revolutionize global agricultural production monitoring, leading to improved management of our agricultural resources, helping to reduce malnutrition and contribute towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The IGOL and the GEOSS Agriculture Societal Benefit Area
Agriculture is an essential component of societal well-being. Agricultural production influences, and is influenced by, health, water quality and quantity, ecosystems, biodiversity, the economy, and energy use and supply. The seasonality and ubiquity of agriculture make agricultural practices and production amenable to efficient synoptic monitoring.
Assessing the need for enhanced agricultural observations (satellite and in-situ) is a responsibility of the Integrated Global Observations of Land (IGOL) program. IGOL advises the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) on the requirements for improved observation of the land surface. The Third Earth Observation Summit, February 2005, established the GEO with the mandate to lead a worldwide effort to build a Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) over the next ten years. The GEOSS is working with, and building upon, existing national, regional and international systems to provide comprehensive, coordinated Earth observations to provide vital information for society. GEO is addressing a broad range of societal benefit areas, one of which is supporting sustainable agriculture. Developing a ten year strategy to obtain these observations and generate and distribute the necessary information is a specific task of the program
The Agricultural Component of GEOSS
The GEO acknowledges sustainable agriculture as one of the critical societal benefit areas (SBA) for international cooperation and collaboration. The agriculture SBA calls for an operational system for monitoring global agriculture that includes the following three main functional components:
- Global mapping and monitoring of changes in distribution of cropland area and the associated cropping systems
- Global monitoring of agricultural production leading to accurate and timely reporting of national agricultural statistics and accurate forecasting of shortfalls in crop production and food supply and facilitating reduction of risk and increased productivity at a range of scales; and,
- Effective early warning of famine, enabling the timely mobilization of an international response in food aid.
The agricultural component of GEOSS is aimed at improving food security through increased use of earth observation data. Emphasis is on the creation and sustained provision of basic earth observation data, enhancements (data products and predictive models) of the observations to improve agricultural monitoring, and the development of the capacity and infrastructure necessary to make available and utilize earth observation information, especially within the developing world. Within the Agricultural SBA, tasks include: initiating the creation of a 5- to 10-year strategic plan and creating a plan of action for GEO in agriculture (Task AG 06 01); developing and improving analytical tools and methods for agricultural risk assessment, particularly for crop failure, and establishing common standards and formats (Task AG 07 02); and supporting operational agricultural monitoring systems, enhancing the current capabilities in the areas of agricultural monitoring, famine early warning and food security (Task AG 07 03).