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Earth observation services for the monitoring of agricultural production in Africa

Through Horizon 2020, the European Commission is seeking suppliers to make agricultural production in Africa more predictable by using Earth observation assets, including – but not limited to – those made available through the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) and Copernicus programmes.

Context/Objectives

Specific Challenge: The Fourth EU-Africa Summit in 2014 agreed on a roadmap for 2014-2017 including actions specifically targeted at delivering Earth observation services in priority domains for Africa such as food security. This topic aims to contribute to this roadmap by providing food supply projection and agricultural risk assessment for Africa. These kinds of projection remain very challenging tasks, requiring a lot of information on environmental and weather conditions, climate change, crops and livestock. This information is usually derived from both remote and in-situ Earth observation systems. The challenge is therefore to make agricultural production in Africa more predictable by using Earth observation assets, including – but not limited to – those made available through the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) and Copernicus programmes.

Scope: The action should lead to substantially increasing the use of Earth observing capabilities and supporting application systems to produce timely, objective, reliable, and transparent crop and livestock production projection at the national and regional level for the African continent. It should support the GEOGLAM[2] and AfriGEOSS[3] initiatives and relevant aspects of the EU's development policy. Moreover, it should design and develop methods to assess/monitor agricultural production in Africa, taking into account its main drivers and the longer term impacts of its dynamics. Building on the outcomes of existing EU projects stimulating innovation for global agricultural monitoring – such as SIGMA[4] –, the research and innovation activities should cover as a minimum all the following domains: crop and livestock identification and crop and livestock area estimation, crop and livestock condition and stress, yield prediction and forecasting, crop cover mapping, and the impact of extreme events on food production.

The action should foster participatory approaches to collecting relevant information and data, taking advantage of the growing number of mobile communication devices owned by African citizens. The participatory approaches should also take into account, and build on, widespread women’s engagement in agricultural production and food supply. There should be an emphasis on ‘consensus of evidence approaches’, integrating data from multiple sources including Earth observations, crop models, weather forecast, climate predictions and projections, surveys and ground observations to reach evidence-based assessments using repeatable and scientifically sound methods.

Large proof-of-concept actions, showing the capacity to deliver food supply prediction and agriculture risk assessment beyond the current state-of-the art at regional/pan-African level should be performed by the action. Proposals should contribute to supporting the implementation of an EU-Africa partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture and should include partners clearly representing the diversity of African countries.

In line with the strategy for EU international cooperation in research and innovation (COM(2012)497), international cooperation is encouraged, in particular with African countries. The action should establish cooperation with institutions/networks engaged in the development of climate services in Africa and with agencies which have developed mapping and assessment tools used in humanitarian decision making.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 10 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

Proposals are expected to:

– move projection of food supply and agricultural risk assessment at the level of the African continent beyond the current capability; – improve decision making capacity regarding food supply and management in Africa; – contribute to independent and neutral evaluation of agricultural production in Africa; – strengthen collaboration between EU and African organisations in the domain of food projection; – increased involvement of citizens and stakeholders in food production and food supply chain management in Africa, taking into account the gender dimension and women’s role in food production and supply; – provide a strong Earth observation building blocks for an EU-Africa Research and Innovation Partnership focusing on food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture; – improve participation of African organisations in GEO and Copernicus (GMES & Africa initiative); – foster cooperation with initiatives developing the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS)[5] in African countries; – contribute to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 2 'End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture' and SDG 13 'Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts'.