Smallholders are small-scale farmers with less than two hectares (2.471 acres) of farmland. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO), “smallholders provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in Asian and sub-Saharan Africa.” Therefore, providing smallholders with new technologies that will enable them to increase their production and productivity, will, in turn, help fight hunger in their country.
Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) is a program that focuses on using satellite data to improve food security in developing countries. It is executed by the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) and is commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They are encouraging organizations to partner with smallholders and use technology to fight hunger, with the goal of tackling food shortages in developing countries.
G4AW aims to provide smallholders with geodata, improved and affordable mobile connectivity, and satellites to provide agricultural advice. Geodata is computerized geographical data, and it can be used to provide smallholders with information on climate, weather and hazards. Improved and affordable mobile connectivity enables businesses to obtain information from smallholders that otherwise would have been nearly impossible to reach.
G4AW has so far initiated 17 projects involving 80 organizations throughout 10 different countries. The organizations involved include banks, insurance companies, satellite data companies, as well as governmental and nongovernmental organizations. One of the projects, Geodata for Innovative Agricultural Credit Insurance Schemes (GIACIS), targets smallholders in East Africa, and offers them “a basic safety net to protect them against weather-related perils.” Another organization called CommonSense targets smallholders in East Africa, and provides them with “information, such as weather forecasts, to help them make more informed decisions on farming activities.”
Netherlands’ Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Lilianne Ploumen, has made an extra 20 million euros available for the G4AW program. At the recent Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Minister Ploumen encouraged businesses, saying, “The great thing is that companies really don’t have to do this out of the goodness of their hearts: there’s also a very attractive business case.” G4AW hopes this newest innovation is just the start of using technology to fight hunger.
– Kristin Westad