March 30, 2006

High tech working to feed populations

CNES and its subsidiaries CLS and Novacom Services are using satellite data to mitigate and track locust swarms in the Sahel. This initiative will be highlighted at the Tech For Food international forum at next year’s International Agricultural Show in Paris.
30 March 2006

Locusts the scourge of Africa

In 2004, huge swarms of desert locusts returned to Africa in the Sahel. Able to drift on the wind for up to 200 km in one day, these swarms devour up to 10,000 tonnes of vegetation daily.

The resulting agricultural disaster constitutes a real threat to food security that could lead to famine.
So how can we combat such devastating plagues of locusts?

In response to this humanitarian threat, CNES and its subsidiaries CLS and Novacom Services proposed an early-warning system to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

This system provides valuable data on weather conditions:
  • rain that is good for crops also favours hatching of locusts and the profusion of leafy green vegetation to bring them rapidly to maturity;
  • wind can also speed the spread of swarms;
  • satellite-based tracking tools are helping affected nations to adopt measures to eradicate locust swarms that pose a threat to populations’ food “reserves”.

Satellite data at the Tech for Food forum

The experiment pursued by the FAO in July 2005 proved most promising.
For this reason, CNES is one of the 1st partners supporting the Tech For Food event, which aims to get new information and communication technologies (NICTs) working to develop farming and food production in the world’s southern nations.
The ambition of Tech For Food, organized for the 1st time at next year’s International Agricultural Show in Paris, is to analyse initiatives, explore new avenues of action and overcome obstacles. It is designed to serve as an international forum for development stakeholders and NICTs to share their experience and know-how.
The event organizers will also be spotlighting 2 other initiatives:
  • In Mali, thanks to the joint efforts of NGO Action Contre La Faim and the Malian authorities, satellites are helping Tuareg and Fulani pastoralists to guide their flocks toward pastures;
  • In Senegal, farmers can keep track on mobile phones of the prices their crops are fetching at market.
By supporting resource management, natural hazard mitigation, training and outreach, the forum intends to promote the many opportunities that NICTs and high tech offer to develop farming and food production.
But, like all such initiatives, it is confronted by the digital divide opening up between North and South.
For targets: