Developing Agriculture from Space

Earth-observing satellites are assisting international development organizations, with their work in developing countries, from 800 km high. Satellites enable objective observations of the status of remote rural areas consistently over space and time.   Image © ESA

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Above: This radar image features Vietnam’s Mekong Delta where the Mekong, the world’s twelfth longest river, fans out into tributaries and empties into the South China Sea in Southeast Asia.

The Mekong Delta in Vietnam is one of the world’s richest agricultural regions and due to the amount of rice produced there it is often referred to as Vietnam’s ‘rice bowl’. The crop feeds the rest of the country and produces enough to make Vietnam one of the world’s top rice exporters.

But the local agriculture – and, as a consequence, the nation’s economy – is threatened by sea level rise and the subsequent influx of salt water.

In order to identify long-term changes in rice cultivated areas and evaluate the effect of salinity intrusion on these areas, satellite data are being used to create land use and land cover maps for statistical analysis.



This is just one of five service trials within a collaborative project by ESA and the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which finances agricultural development projects primarily for food production in the developing countries.

The other ESA–IFAD projects include land use, land cover and crop monitoring in Niger, Gambia, Botswana and São Tomé and Príncipe. Specialised European Earth observation service providers are also involved, including Deimos Engenharia (PT), Finnish Geodetic Institute (FI), GAF AG (DE), Geoville (AT) and Sarmap (CH).

The collaboration aims to raise awareness within IFAD about how Earth observation technology can be customised to IFAD activities around the globe. This includes assisting in establishing country strategy plans, assessing food security, managing water and adapting to climate change.

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