Mapping the Earth’s surface from above is no longer the exclusive privilege of map producers or the military. Meteorologists can also make good use of satellite images, and channel the data into agricultural planning and production.
At a week-long FAO training session starting today in Budapest, international experts on meteorology, remote sensing and climate issues will forge ties and exchange knowledge with representatives of Central and Eastern European countries. The expected result is better weather and climate information – especially drought monitoring and management – for the benefit of food producers and water managers.
Satellites can be used to observe land use, air, water, vegetation, topography, soil and other characteristics across a wide area, and provide the data in digital form.
Agriculture, one of the most climate-sensitive sectors, is adversely affected by natural hazards that can damage or destroy equipment and cause extensive crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry losses. With climate change intensifying, the frequency and severity of natural hazards is expected to increase, FAO warns.
Agriculture is also the sector most affected by drought, absorbing on average about 84 percent of all economic impact.
The aftermath of a drought is estimated to be much higher than that of flooding. As a slow-onset hazard, the effects of drought often accumulate over time.
Training participants this week will take stock of vegetation and crop monitoring, and land satellite application facility (SAF). Next, they will have hands-on training on satellite products and applications, and on coupling remote sensing with agriculture decision-making models.
Countries with experience will be given the floor as well: Serbia will share its experience in combining the technology with decision making, while representatives of national meteorological and hydrological services in Croatia will talk about forest fire risk products. Another case study will be Romania, presenting remote sensing products for agriculture and drought monitoring.
Smallholder farmers in South Eastern Europe are particularly vulnerable to climate events, such as droughts and floods, said FAO Regional Programme Leader Raimund Jehle in his opening remarks. They practice agriculture for their livelihoods and contribute to national food security, but often have problems getting access to insurance.
To reduce negative consequences and the number of people affected, Jehle called it “crucial” to adopt an approach that aims to mitigate risk – through improved drought monitoring, assessment, and forecasting, for example.
The training week is a joint initiative of FAO, the World Meteorological Organization, and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and is hosted by the Hungarian Meteorological Service.