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Spotting deforestation from space

Posted by Marjolein van Gelder Wednesday, January 29, 2014 1 comments

São Tomé and Príncipe, a small island positioned in the gulf of Guinea, is considered one of the 200 most important biodiversity hotspots in the world. Many  of its important species and their habitats are threatened. Until recently very little information was available or known about deforestation and ecosystem loss. Earth observation has proved a powerful tool to learn about the process of deforestation and to spot the  places where interventions are needed the most.
Sao Tome and Principe hosts an extraordinary amount of endemic bird and plant species[1] for an island of its size. The island has a large protected area, the Obo National park, which covers around 35 per cent of the country's surface. Signs of deforestation in the park and its buffer zones, an environmental impact that negatively affects  local livelihoods, was a main reason for the GEF-IFAD intervention.

Before the start of the project, greater knowledge on the specific spots of deforestation was needed. This information will continue to be beneficial in the future, when the impacts of the project need to be evaluated. The European Space Agency financed a project from IFAD preformed by Geoville, to demonstrate how IFAD could benefit from Earth observation data. The project created some interesting observations on forest coverage in São Tomé and Príncipe.

Earth observation was not an easy task due to the climatic conditions of the island – most of the time the surface is covered in fog and clouds. Some areas could only be observed with the help of radar data, going through clouds but of a lower quality since the clouds lower the view. This data has been combined with optical data, which has a high quality but does not show what is under the clouds. These challenges made it impossible to detect illegal logging on a micro scale.

Although the mapping was far from an easy exercise, deforestation is clearly seen in the period between 2009-2013. The deforested regions are painted red on the map to the right. Those areas where deforestation is observed are mostly near large oil palm and cacao plantations. Interestingly, these are the same locations that were given to foreign companies for operation. In addition, there are signals of a shift towards more heterogeneous and invasive crop cultivation in regions with high deforestation rates. These findings created a rich source of information on possible causes of deforestation and provide important inputs for the project.

In the near future, earth observation has even more  potential. The European Space Agency will soon start two new satellite missions that will generate new datasets of earth observations.[2] The missions carry a range of technologies, such as radar and multi-spectral imaging instruments for land, ocean and atmospheric monitoring. The benefit of these missions is that all data can be accessed for free. This new open source information will decrease the costs of new mapping exercises.

In addition, maps can be enriched with more precise information, as in the case of participatory mapping. These maps can include community information, such as local water stream information or land tenure systems, so they can be used for specific, local purposes. 

The São Tomé and Príncipe project offers a good example for the practical uses of earth observation technology by  showing where deforestation has taken place, indicating likely causes of deforestation and providing a baseline for project evaluation at a later stage. Especially when one
considers the decreasing costs of future exercises due to the free data and the possibility of additional applications to the maps, the potential of earth observations is substantial.

[1] http://www.cbd.int/countries/profile/default.shtml?country=st
[2] http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Copernicus/Overview4

Jan 16, 2014
by David Cozac

Blog originally posted on IFPRI's blog

Improving food security and enhancing economic development in developing countries requires a multifaceted approach—and that includes access to reliable data. In the swiftly changing Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, up-to-date information is particularly crucial for policymakers to make accurate assessments of poverty, food and nutrition security, and other development indicators.
In early 2013, the IFPRI-led open-access database and mapping tool—Arab Spatial—was launched to support this objective. The first initiative of its kind in the MENA region, Arab Spatial compiles, synthesizes, and geographically displays data on more than 200 indicators of food security and development. It analyzes food availability, accessibility, stability, and utilization, and the resulting nutritional status of individuals. It also considers the role that crises like violent conflict and shocks like climate change play in disrupting food security, and, in contrast, the role that policies and interventions can play in improving it.
The database allows users to customize outputs according to their needs. For example, if someone wants to determine a link between droughts and violent conflict, Arab Spatial can map only those indicators or selectively add more layers, depending on the question raised.
Now, one year later, an upgraded version is available. Announced on January 16 at a workshop on “Enhancing resilience to conflict in Arab countries through research and Arab Spatial 2.0,” the latest version includes the following new features:
  • a gallery of downloadable pre-made graphs on Arab nations’ development and food security;
  • customized analytical tools that allow users to compare and explore data by indicators, regions, and year, and to download the results;
  • multilayer maps that dynamically track development projects geographically; and
  • simpler navigation and greater interactivity for an enhanced user experience.
The Arab Awakening underscored a desire not only for information, but also a desire for the public to have a say in policy matters. Arab Spatial responds to that need and should be of interest to anyone concerned with food security and economic development in Arab countries. It is designed to help stimulate public debate, policy dialogue, and better decisionmaking with the objective of achieving better lives for everyone, especially the most vulnerable.

Related IFPRI materials
Pressroom page for "Enhancing Resilience to Conflict in Arab Countries" workshop

This article first appeared in UN Kenya Newsletter, December 2013

Workshop participates playing 'the River Climate Game’ 
©IFAD, 2013
IFAD’s regional Knowledge Management and Capacity Building Forum has embarked on an innovative initiative of bringing the thematic areas of gender, land tenure and climate change together in IFAD projects towards further contributing to lifting poor rural farmers out of poverty. This is under the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), which is aimed at the integration of climate adaptation related aspects in both design and implementation of IFAD supported projects in the East and Southern Africa region.

To kick-start this initiative, the first ever regional workshop on linking the three thematic areas was held among IFAD staff and partners such as ICRAF, FAO, WFP, UNHabitat, UNEP and CGIAR, in October 2013 in Nairobi. Climate change experts shared prevailing facts, with a specific focus on the East and Southern Africa (ESA) region. According to a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in low-income countries, climate change could increase the number of malnourished children by 9.8 per cent by 2050.

Climate change impacts, induced by a general rise in temperatures, include an increased incidence of droughts and floods, land degradation, water scarcity and biodiversity loss. In East and Southern Africa, the effects of climate change will be compounded by the region’s high poverty levels, weak infrastructure, poor natural resources management and dependence on rainfed agriculture.

A key highlight of the workshop was the participation by all in the “River Climate Game” developed by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. In an informal way, participants were able to unpack the complexities and uncertainties of climate change, especially when linked to land and gender issues. As the IFAD regional director Perin Saint-Ange said: “We have to reshape our agendas to be able to address the various cross-cutting issues of land, climate change and gender.”

It is important to mind the gender gap in dealing with climate change and land related issues in projects, and to recognize that men and women farmers have different abilities to adapt to and mitigate climate change. “Climate change adaptation strategies for women and men may be different due to the gender differentiated access to resources; unequal voice in decision making as well as gender-based division of labour. The workshop took these issues into consideration to ensure that the design of new ASAP projects in ESA will be gender-responsive. It is also important to make agriculture attractive to the youth given their large numbers and the potential they hold for the future,” said Elizabeth Nyambura Ssendiwala, the Gender & Youth Coordinator from IFAD Nairobi.

Additionally, land tenure security, especially women’s land rights, decentralized land administration, and equitable access to irrigation and watershed management will also have to be integrated in projects and programmes for sustainable development.

Pro-poor Value Chain Development Project in the Maputo
and Limpopo Corridors of Mozambique.
©IFAD/Clarissa Baldin
Written by Christopher Neglia

Stephen Twomlow is IFAD’s Regional Climate and Environmental Specialist for East and Southern Africa. He is based in Nairobi, Kenya where he provides technical support to ensure IFAD’s regional portfolio is environmentally sustainable and climate-smart - assisting in project and country strategy design towards integrating climate and environment risks and opportunities (such as climate adaptation) into early identification and design of projects and country strategies. He’s currently supporting programmatic activities in Comoros, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda.

What countries or sub-region in East and Southern Africa do you think will be negatively affected by climate change? 

Southern Africa will experience the worst impacts in the region. There you have arid and semi-arid areas that traverse the borders of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique. The situation of water scarcity is expected to become more dire, and could surpass the threshold of what smallholder farmers can tolerate when it comes to the water needed for agricultural production.

In general, do you think that Governments in the East and Southern Africa are finally realizing the importance of the issue? 

At the moment I would say governments are paying lip service, but not doing anything concrete to stop the impacts of climate change. With most governments constrained by tight budgets, there is hardly any impetus to spend money on long term environment and climate issues. But I should qualify this by saying there is also a gradual realization that something needs to change.

Do you think there is any resistance in the East and Southern Africa (ESA) division to addressing climate risks in IFAD-funded projects? 

No, I think we have come a long way on this. Most people whom I’ve worked with are on board. The challenge I see is getting colleagues to articulate the situation, by doing the proper vulnerability assessments and using the right language when talking about climate risks. In addition, when doing project designs it is important to understand that climate change is playing out over longer time horizons, therefore the project activities need to be sustainable in order to realize adaptation in the long-term.

Do you think there still is some resistance from the beneficiaries to adopt climate resilient practices? 

Certainly, as many people cannot access funds without strings attached. It is up to us to show that adaptation to climate change is not an economic burden, but brings all sorts of opportunities such as linking up to value chains, learning more efficient techniques or avoiding crop losses. One important point is that climate funds should engage with communities when taking stock of the baseline environmental conditions; this process allows them to confront issues that they would otherwise simply ignore.

What are the main environmental problems that you find endemic in different project areas? 

Two of the most common environmental problems are deforestation for charcoal production and lack of sustainable soil fertility management. On the latter, there is a need to think about a new paradigm that aims at improved plant nutrition for greater drought tolerance. If we feed the plant to grow the roots than it is more likely to survive dry periods.

What new IFAD-funded projects are coming in 2014 and what are their main objectives? 

There are two projects funded by the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) that I have been closely involved with. The first is the Climate Resilient Post-Harvest and Agribusiness support project (PASP) in Rwanda. This project will address the post-harvest sector of the CIP (crop intensification programme) crops and dairy to demonstrate pro-poor approaches in post-harvest activities under increasing climatic uncertainty. Second, there is the Wool and Mohair Programme in Lesotho that seeks to provide economic and climate resilience to the poor, food insecure, climate vulnerable livestock producers in the Mountain and Foothill Regions of the country.

By Abdelhaq Hanafi

Judging by the sheer amount of press coverage, the launch of the PRIME project in Cairo on 12 December generated a great deal of interest. PRIME stands for Promoting Rural Income through Market Enhancement, and is comprised of three components: marketing support, rural finance, and project management and coordination. The total value of the project loan is USD 71 million, and the project aims to reach 50,000 beneficiaries.

Certainly, the project, which aims to create jobs, raise incomes, increase food security, reduce unemployment and tackle poverty in rural areas, addresses a pressing need in Egypt.

PRIME’s kick-off, hosted by the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture, was covered by Egypt’s main television channel, which aired the story on the evening news, as well as by several other television stations, newspapers, and online media outlets.

At the ceremonies, government officials said that PRIME project activities complement the Egyptian Government’s priorities.

The Egyptian Minister for Agriculture and Land Reclamation, the Egyptian Minister of Local Development, and the Egyptian Minister of Supplies each underscored the government’s commitment to the development of marginalized rural areas. Special mention was made of the fact that the project is being widely implemented, across 7 Governorates: Qena, Sohag, Assiut, Minya and BeniSuef in Upper Egypt, and Kafr el Sheikh and Beheira in Delta.

In his speech, IFAD’s Country Programme Manager for Egypt thanked the Egyptian Government for its commitment to help smallholder farmers improve their lives. Egypt, he noted, is one of the largest recipients of IFAD’s financial assistance in the NENA subregion. In the current funding cycle, which runs from 2013 to 2015, IFAD has allocated USD 78.8 million in Egypt. Currently, he added, IFAD is co-operating with the Government of Egypt to design new projects. These will focus on scaling up one of IFAD’s most successful projects, the West Nubaria Rural Development Project, while incorporating new and innovative ideas related to renewable energy and water management.

Participants in the PRIME inauguration ceremonies included a roster of high-ranking Egyptian officials, including Under Secretary of State for Ministry of International Cooperation, higher-up staff from the Ministry of Agriculture as well as the First Under Secretary of State of the Ministry of Agriculture in each of the seven governorates covered by the project, and government officials at the Ministry of Agriculture.
After the opening ceremony was concluded, it was time to get down to work. Project teams attended the first session of PRIME’s start-up workshop, which dealt with issues related to project monitoring and evaluation. The second day of workshops covered monitoring and evaluation as well as finance and procurement issues. Thanks to these intensive workshops, the project teams were able to dive right in, getting acclimated to both the programme and its logistics.

by Clare Bishop-Sambrook, Policy and Technical Advisory Division

The International Year of Family Farming is an opportunity to reaffirm the global importance of smallholder family farming, as producers of food, as carers of the landscape, and as contributors to rural economic activity. However, to unlock the potential of family farming requires more than ensuring smallholder access to productive inputs and technologies, natural resources and land,  financial services, and an enabling policy environment. We also need to look within the family.

Intra-household dynamics are crucial to the productive and long-term success of family farming. Farming families usually share the same living space, eat from the same pot and rely on the family to undertake most of the work. Yet there is often a disconnect between the workloads of family members, their voice in decision-making and their sharing in the benefits. And, in some parts of the world, men and women within a household even pursue separate livelihood strategies, with women typically disadvantaged in terms of access to resources, services and markets, and burdened by more onerous daily tasks.

Consequently, what happens inside the family has substantial implications not only for individual motivation and well-being, but also for the productivity and investments of smallholder family farming. It is essential to consider the family dimension if this International Year is to generate a commitment to developing the full potential of family farms.

How can this be done? 

In recent years, several methodologies have been developed to work within the ‘black box’ of the household. The formation of a ‘family vision’ to which adult family members contribute – together with older children, in many cases – enables the family to conceptualize and work towards shared, time-bound goals. Households are facilitated through this visioning process in various ways, including individual home visits by a trained mentor or extension worker, or initial skills development at a group level which can then be replicated and sustained at the household level with the support of peers and trained facilitators. One of the strengths of the methodologies is that they can be adapted to local situations and household forms (such as polygamous or female-headed households).

Household methodologies are currently being implemented by governments, development agencies – including IFAD - and NGOs. The experiences of IFAD-supported programmes in Sierra Leone, Uganda, Ghana and Malawi, and an IFAD grant-supported project led by Oxfam Novib in Uganda, Rwanda and Nigeria, demonstrate that household methodologies can contribute significantly to development objectives, as well as gender equality in family and small scale farming activities.

Transformation methodologies, such as household approaches, show that cultural norms that have existed for generations can be transformed within one or two years, simply because the benefits of collaboration are experienced so rapidly. Women begin to exercise more decision-making power and suffer less gender-based violence. Men start to take on domestic and caring tasks and share work on the land, thus freeing up women’s time and securing men many personal benefits, such as more positive relationships with their children. Decision-making regarding household income flows and expenditures becomes more transparent and starts to involve all adult- and, in some cases, child-household members.

As a result, participants report that their livelihoods are now more sustainable and resilient, farm productivity and incomes have increased, food security is better and, simply, they are happier with themselves and other household members. Local economies have also been boosted.

Moreover, this tool is proving very powerful in identifying and addressing gender and inter-generational inequalities, as well as health-related issues such as HIV/AIDS, by generating changes from within the household, rather than imposing them from without. Since household methodologies do not seek to empower women at the seeming expense of men, during the process of planning a household livelihood strategy all household members come to realize that working together is a win-win solution that benefits everyone.

‘It was a taboo for men to carry a hoe. Women carried two hoes - the husband’s and hers, and from the farm also carried water, while the man walked freely carrying nothing. Once at home, the man would wait for food, while the woman will rush to the kitchen to begin preparing food. With the household methodology, our husbands now carry hoes, can fetch water and cook. This is a transformation for the better and I am no longer burdened. Planning together has made us more united and my relationship with my husband is very good.’
Abigael, wife in male-headed household participating in Irrigation and Rural Livelihoods Project, Malawi.

What role is IFAD playing in promoting household methodologies in family farming?
IFAD is one of the leading agencies innovating with household methodologies to have more effective reach among poorer households and to improve intra-household gender relations. The Fund has a critical mass of initial experience, is a catalyst for knowledge exchange on innovative methodologies related to rural development, and has a strong presence at the field level. IFAD has played a key role in promoting household methodologies and, with the support of funding from the Government of Japan, organized a workshop/writeshop in Uganda in late 2013 to develop a sourcebook on household methodologies. This brought together 25 practitioners from all over sub-Saharan Africa working on different transformative methodologies at the household and community levels.

Special events for 2014
Given the importance of intra-household dynamics for the sustainable development of family farming, the IFAD Gender Desk will be happy to provide technical support to regional and country level initiatives during 2014 to promote the adoption of household methodologies. Contact: gender@ifad.org

The sourcebook will be released in the first half of 2014 and specific training activities will be organized to up-scale the adoption of these methodologies in IFAD operations.

For further details about household methodology experiences, see the links below:
Gender sub-site
International Year of Family Farming