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Printing Satellite Images for Pastoralists: Low Tech ICTforAg Innovation

By Wayan Vota on June 1, 2016

satellite_maps_pastoralists

Geographic information systems are changing the way we think about food security and famine early warning. At the Transforming Global Food Security event, we talked about how we can now predict famine six months to a year in advance, with startling accuracy.

That can help governments prepare for a mitigate famine on a national level, but what about increasing resilience at a local level? Particularly with pastoralist and other people who do not have access to modern technology or the digital literacy skills to use it?

Join us next Friday at ICTforAg to learn more about using remote sensing to improve smallholder farmer crop yields.

The Original ICT: Paper

Project Concern International has an innovative solution that’s simple yet highly effective. Every 10 days, they print out Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) satellite images of Ethiopia’s cattle grazing areas, and pass them out to pastoral clan leaders. These maps show vegetation density and greenness down to a 10 km2 area, and help communities make data based decisions on when and where to move their cattle, increasing the pastoralists’ food security.

“Food aid is important and necessary, but it is not going to bring back their livestock or improve their livelihoods,” said Chris Bessenecker, vice president of strategic initiatives at Project Concern International, in an interview with Humanosphere. “Passing out a paper map is less expensive than handing out bags and bags of food, and potentially more cost-effective.”

The Satellite-Assisted Pastoral Resource Management (SAPARM) program is showing great results across Ethiopia. Almost 80% of pastoralists in the intervention community used the maps for migration decision-making and more than half said it was their most important source of information. Even better, there was a 47% drop in herd mortality.

This level of impact has attracted $1.3 million from USAID and $750,000 from Google to expand the program to reach more than 1 million people in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Could one of your program constituents benefit from an offline solution?

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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4 Comments to “Printing Satellite Images for Pastoralists: Low Tech ICTforAg Innovation”

  1. Tucker Shouse says:

    That’s awesome! It’s really easy to get caught up in the medium of information transfer (e.g. it has to be real time, it has to be interactive etc.) without thinking about the real end-user adoption. It’s not about one tool over the other, it’s about the combination of tools that best fit the user and their need. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Terry Gillett says:

    Great story.

    Are the maps being published on the web at all ie can they be downloaded ?

    Thanks

    • David C Becker says:

      This sounds very interesting, and I spent 2 years in Ethiopia, so I know first hand the desperate importance of feeding the livestock in the dry season. But I am reminded of the second order effect of drilling wells for livestock – the availability of water meant that herds grew larger and came and ate all the grass to nothing, leaving small deserts around wells. Will more efficient location of every grassy area lead to larger herds and over-grazing of the habitat? Will it lead to even more group conflict over the available land as herds all head to the same remaining patches? Has there been an impact study of the long term effect on the grass, not the short term effect on the herds? After all, even in the US a cattle ranch is really a grass production operation that measures its grass growing efficiency by the number of cows it can support. You get what you measure…

  3. Jennifer Waugaman says:

    Thanks for sharing Wayan! PCI is proud of the impact SAPARM is having via paper maps. Due to the rapid expansion of 3G and uptake of smartphones, we are now in the process of developing a mobile application critical to taking SAPARM to scale for the 200+ million pastoralists in Africa. While not intended to replace the simple ICT solution of paper maps, an app will significantly enhance the usability and value of the maps with features like geolocation and zoom for surface water, while also creating digital content that is relevant and useful for local populations. To partner with us or read more, you can find us on the Global Innovation Exchange: http://www.globalinnovationexchange.org/innovations/saparm