Spatial technology creates opportunities for vulnerable small-scale food producers as IFAD and ESA join forces

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Spatial technology creates opportunities for vulnerable small-scale food producers as IFAD and ESA join forces

© IFAD/ Laisiasa Dave /PIFON Pacific Farmer Organizations

Rome, 28 June 2023. The UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have stepped up their partnership to help vulnerable small-scale food producers increase their ability to grow food and adapt to climate change by using state-of-the-art spatial technology and data.

The expanded partnership will see ESA’s top-notch remote-sensing expertise and data incorporated into IFAD’s agricultural programmes and project design, refining geographical targeting and monitoring natural resources, such as pastures, forests, water and soils, which are vital to the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and pastoralists.

Remote sensing is often used to study from a distance any object or phenomenon, for instance how land cover changes. Data about the Earth's surface is gathered through various sensors and instruments, typically mounted on satellites, aircrafts or drones.

“Business as usual will not be enough to adapt and thrive as the climate crisis intensifies its effects on food production. Working together with ESA will increase the impact of IFAD’s investments in crop and livestock production, natural resource management and climate change adaptation. This is the kind of innovative partnership that help us make the difference in the last mile, where we work and where most poor rural people live,” said Gladys Morales, IFAD’s Global Head of Innovation at a multistakeholder forum on innovation organized by IFAD in Rome.

“In a world of ever-increasing climate variability and weather extremes Earth Observation can provide timely information to manage better scarce resources like water or respond to floods and heatwaves. The partnership between ESA and IFAD allows to align development financing instruments with the latest space technology to adapt to climate change and support the green transition worldwide.”, said Benjamin Koetz, Head of Sustainable Initiatives Office European Space Agency.

IFAD and ESA have a long-standing informal partnership, dating back to 2010 with the production of land cover maps in Madagascar. Recently, the two institutions worked together on pasture health maps in Kyrgyzstan, erosion maps in Lesotho, and identifying the areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in Tajikistan. This year, the spatial agency and the UN fund plan to assess livestock migratory routes and rangelands in Sudan despite the current conflict, while monitoring afforestation in Türkiye and providing support to IFAD’s new programme on agroecology.

Other partnerships to foster innovation

In addition to the IFAD-ESA collaboration, IFAD is strengthening partnerships in other areas of innovation. “Innovation is the driving force to unlock the potential of rural development and climate adaptation. Since innovating implies a degree of risk and uncertainty, we need to think out of the box to all together create the conditions for small-scale farmers to innovate and adopt new technologies, processes, or ways of organization,” said Morales.

The UN agency has announced closer ties with the WFP Innovation Accelerator. This collaboration will involve sharing knowledge and expertise, testing ideas, consulting experts, and exploring ways to work together to scale up innovations that have proven effective, as well as joint resource mobilization opportunities.

IFAD is reinforcing its partnership with Global Action, a not-for-profit association that pursues free quality education at a global level. The partnership aims to support youth-led innovation and enhance capacity in idea generation and innovation among young people.

The UN agency will also ramp up its partnership with the European Institute of Innovation for Sustainability through a scholarship programme. Students from 86 countries of the global south will learn how to originate and test ideas geared towards providing better support to small-scale farmers and indigenous people in a sustainable, inclusive, and equitable manner. Previously, both organizations had developed a Certificate Programme in Food & Sustainability.

The IFAD Innovation Day 2023, held in collaboration with Cariplo Factory, an innovation hub company, Global Action, and the Fund for Innovation in Development, showcased progress, opportunities, and potential areas for strategic partnerships and co-financing to scale up innovation for rural communities in need. The event received support from the governments of Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, and Norway, along with the media partnership of adnkronos. A marketplace was featured, exhibiting innovative solutions funded by IFAD that aim to achieve sustainable and inclusive rural development.

Note to editors:

For further information, visit the IFAD Innovation Day official webpage.

Press release No.: IFAD/49/2023

IFAD is an international financial institution and a United Nations specialized agency. Based in Rome – the United Nations food and agriculture hub – IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided more than US$24 billion in grants and low-interest loans to fund projects in developing countries. 

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