Dr. Catherine Nakalembe’s project “Earth Observation for National Agricultural Monitoring” was selected for the NASA SERVIR Applied Science Team (AST) 2019. Catherine will also serve as the Food Security and Agriculture Thematic lead on the AST Team. She will work with co-Investigators Dr. Inbal Becker-Reshef, Dr. Sergii Skakun and Dr. Ritvik Sahajpal, the SERVIR East and Southern Africa Hub and collaborators from key national agencies in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.


Recent catastrophic droughts in East and Southern Africa (E&SA) have led to major food shortages. Recent consecutive drought years left millions in the region struggling to cope with the impacts. The food-insecure population in E&SA continues to grow at unprecedented rates was estimated at 23 Million in 2017. Satellite data availability, rapid developments in cloud computing and big data analytics are revolutionizing the remote sensing field and opening new opportunities to realize the value of satellite data in providing accurate, reliable and timely crop-specific information across cropping systems. Earth Observations (EO) data can improve measurement of agricultural productivity supporting efforts to evaluate and target interventions to enhance agricultural productivity and improve food security. Despite this, governments in E&SA remain poorly positioned to use the readily and freely-available EO data to make timely, necessary and informed decisions concerning food security although their desire to do so is strong. The main objective of the project is to advance national agriculture monitoring with EO data in E&SA, through development of up to date semi-automated baseline datasets required for more accurate agriculture monitoring and strengthen the capacity of the SERVIR E&SA-Hub to implement and support scaling up methodologies to other use-cases, including operational national crop monitors, disaster risk, and insurance programs. The projects activities will increase national analysts’ knowledge and skills to use EO data for monitoring and reporting and improve yield indicators needed for informed responses to shortfalls in food production and contribute to data-driven decision-making. The data products will increase objectivity in decision making and reduce the burden of implementing and managing risk insurance programs. Better and timely decisions at the national level will inevitably impact farmers livelihoods.
Catherine Nakalembe