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World Food Day 2020 - Closing the Digital Gap through International Cooperation

It is that time of the year again, it’s World Food Day!  

This year’s theme, set by the Food & Agricultural Organisation, is “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together, and it invites us to reflect on the theme of sustainable international cooperation when it comes to food and agriculture. International cooperation is of course also a core value at the heart of the UK Space Agency and its International Partnership Programme.  

In this blog post, Environment Systems, who lead the EO4cultivar project, reflect on this value and how it enables us to have an impact on the real-world problems of communities in the Virú valley in northern Peru. 

Who owns the water?

In 2018, EO4cultivar established links with a local water association in the Virú valley. The connection to the Junta de Riego was facilitated by one of the project partners, a regional technological institute attached to the Peruvian Ministry of Production. Since then, the EO4cultivar team at Environment Systems has mapped the various user needs of the water association and its overarching organisation.  

Working together is a learning process though. Luisa Carranza, coordinator at the Junta de Riego in the Virú valley puts it as follows: ‘We are a small non-profit and EO4cultivar is our only international cooperation project. The process requires adaptation but it is very useful for us because we will receive up-to-date information on our area of work’.   

The Virú valley water association, a non-profit, deals with various challenges of a complex nature on a daily basis. The area under its administration is 15,000 hectares and includes >1000 smallholder farms. Problems include issues around distribution, insufficient availability of irrigation water, boundary disputes and unauthorised water canals.  

These issues are complicated to resolve because problems around water distribution and ownership are first and foremost social issues. Without access to up-to-date information, however, the job that Luisa and her team have to deal with becomes even more difficult, if not impossible. 

The power of satellites

In order to contribute to improving the association’s capability to resolve these issues, the EO4cultivar project is creating a delivery mechanism to enable the water association to receive timely, regular up-to-date information derived from Earth Observation data. 

Environment Systems will deliver high-resolution crop health monitoring data from the PlanetScope and Sentinel-2 satellites for a selection of areas, including areas prone to ground water salinisation. Together with the water association, Environment Systems is developing a delivery mechanism that allows the water association to use this data in their operations alongside existing data and management tools. 

In order to ensure that the information received can be used and is available over the long-term, Environment Systems has created targeted Spanish-language training in a suitable GIS software package. In doing so, it has created a valuable, lasting resource that will be freely available following the project’s end date. This in turn helps to create an objective evidence-base that ultimately improves water management, delivers societal benefit and contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.   

As the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN rightly recognised with its emphasis on the word ‘together’, in this year’s world food day theme, bottom-up cooperation with grassroots organisations is essential if projects are to have lasting impact and if actors are to be as well-equipped as possible for addressing urgent environmental challenges, such as water shortages in food production.   

EO4cultivar is one of our International Partnership Programme projects, active in Colombia, Peru and Paraguay, delivering satellite solutions for agriculture.   

Image credit: Colour infrared Sentinel-2 and Planet imagery of the Viru Valley, Peru. Powered by Planet. Includes content sourced via SkyWatch Space Applications Inc. Environment Systems Data Services ©️ [2016-20], CC BY-SA 4.0.

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