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Crowdsourcing Food Security Status From South Sudan Satellite Imagery

By Guest Writer on August 1, 2016


The FEWS NET early warning system educates decision-makers who are responsible for creating and funding humanitarian response plans, and in December 2015, FEWS NET set out to identify populations of displaced persons in South Sudan and assess their food security.

Individuals in South Sudan are constantly being displaced from their homes and livelihoods and left without a regular source of food or water. Previously, FEWS NET stated that Unity State, a region of South Sudan, suffered from a crisis level of food insecurity, but it wanted to obtain a more comprehensive assessment of the situation. FEWS NET needed to understand population migration in Unity State as it relates to food insecurity.

FEWS NET turned to DigitalGlobe, which used their satellites to obtain high-resolution imagery of the region. The imagery was then uploaded onto the DigitalGlobe Crowdsourcing platform where the crowd was asked to look at the imagery and identify permanent dwellings, temporary dwellings and herds of livestock – each of which can be indicators for population density, community permanence and food security.

Interested in remote sensing for development? Suggest a session at MERL Tech and register to attend the Oct 3-4 2016 conference.

In just two weeks, more than 25,000 volunteers worked on this campaign and identified more than 46,000 features across 14,000 square kilometers, helping FEWS NET obtain the information they needed to evaluate the reality on the ground. Subsequently, the food insecurity level in Unity State was raised again to a level of emergency. Unfortunately, as new instances of violence have spread across South Sudan, it is difficult to anticipate when this crisis will ease.

As conflict continues to plague particular regions, remote sensing will become an increasingly crucial source of information for food security assessments and informing relief campaigns for displaced persons. Similar techniques have already been used to map remote populations for vaccination campaigns and to monitor the growth of refugee camps. When insecurity makes on the ground assessments difficult to achieve, satellite imagery provides valuable information to inform a range of response efforts.

Jessica Sadye Wolff is a Global Development Marketing Intern at DigitalGlobe

Filed Under: Agriculture
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One Comment to “Crowdsourcing Food Security Status From South Sudan Satellite Imagery”

  1. Chad says:

    How can I get a copy of the data?