Earth observation (EO) technologies have tremendous potential in supporting the implementation of long-term and large-scale research and development programmes focused on resolving data and information gaps related to agriculture in developing countries. Such technologies can provide information on the status of and changes in agricultural land use and productivity and help in building resilience for food security.
To encourage the use of advanced satellite data analysis in agriculture, a training workshop on EO applications in agriculture and food security was organized at the National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) campus in Islamabad, Pakistan from 26–28 December 2018. Topics at the workshop covered advances in optical remote sensing and use of microwave radar data to produce information on crop health and assess drought-related crop failures early on. Hands-on exercises covered the use of high-resolution Sentinel data in combination with field-based observation data in the Google Earth Engine (GEE) cloud computing platform.
The workshop was organized by the Climate Change, Alternate Energy and Water Resources Institute (CEWRI) of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) in collaboration with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). One of PARC’s priority areas is to build the capacity of agriculture professionals in the use of new technologies to keep its research aligned with recent technological developments.
The three-day workshop brought together mid-career professionals comprising researchers and PhD students from different institutions: Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), Provincial Agriculture Extension Department – Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC), National Disaster Management Authority Pakistan (NDMA), Ministry of Climate Change, WWF-Pakistan, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Arid Agriculture University, COMSATS University Pakistan, and Punjab University in Pakistan.
Rajesh Bahadur Thapa, Capacity Building Specialist at ICIMOD, appreciated the active participation of all trainees and commended the efforts of the Himalayan Adaptation, Water and Resilience (HI-AWARE) team in Pakistan. He thanked Bashir Ahmad, Principal Scientific Officer/PI, and Salaar Saeed, GIS/RS Analyst HI-AWARE, CEWRI, for putting things in order for the training and for providing a platform for researchers in Pakistan to share their knowledge and learn about emerging EO tools and technologies.
Ahmad Kamal Nasir, a workshop participant from LUMS, appreciated ICIMOD’s efforts in organizing such trainings, especially for early- to mid-career researchers in areas such as big data and cloud computing platforms and their usage for the agriculture sector.
In his closing remarks, Yusuf Zafar, Chairman of PARC, emphasized the need to keep young professionals up-to-date with global technological developments and allow them to make the best use of sciences for agriculture and food security in Pakistan. He expressed satisfaction regarding the training’s design and structure and added that the workshop must have significantly advanced participants’ skills in the field of EO technologies.
The training was organized under ICIMOD’s HI-AWARE and SERVIR Hindu Kush Himalaya (SERVIR-HKH) initiatives. The latter falls under ICIMOD’s Mountain Environment Regional Information System (MENRIS) regional programme and is implemented in ICIMOD’s regional member countries, prioritizing activities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. It caters to the specific needs of the regional member countries in addressing the different aspects of environmental degradation and climate change impacts. ICIMOD has organized a number of trainings on the use of EO and geospatial information technology (GIT), particularly the Google Earth Engine, under its SERVIR-HKH initiative.
HI-AWARE, a five-year climate change adaptation initiative (2014–2018), focused on the mountains and flood plains of the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra river basins in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Its overall goal was to contribute to increasing the climate resilience and adaptive capacities of poor and vulnerable women, men, and children living in river basins in South Asia. To achieve this, the project conducted research and pilot interventions, along with capacity building and policy engagement on climate resilience and adaptation, to influence policies and practice that will improve livelihoods.
Hammad Gilani, Assistant Professor – Space Science at the Institute of Space Technology – Islamabad and resource person to the training, during the workshop. (Photo: Salaar Saeed, CEWRI)