Mali stakeholder meeting

On March 21st, 2017, the Mali’s Sen2-Agri National Stakeholders Consultation took place on the West and Central Africa campus of ICRISAT in Samanko.

Building on the experience, partnerships and legacy from the STARS (Spurring a Transformation for Agriculture through Remote Sensing) project, ICRISAT and partners successfully registered Mali in 2015 as one of the three worldwide Sen2-Agri national demonstration cases alongside Ukraine and South Africa. Covering typically 500,000 km2 and representing a raw volume of ~4Tb of imagery per season, each of these cases aims to demonstrate the system scalability and the robustness of methods and requires the involvement of a national organization with the mandate for crop statistics or agricultural monitoring activities.

In order to give an update on this demonstration, a National Stakeholders Consultation was organised, involving 75 participants from a wide cross-sectorial spectrum including governmental, non-governmental, public and private actors with the following objectives:

  • Present the Sen2-Agri project to Mali stakeholders,
  • Review and collect feedback on initial Sen2-Agri products developed over Mali for the 2016 season,
  • Understand and develop demand for application use cases.

From the meeting discussions, 3 priority use cases have been identified:

  • Improving agricultural statistics:
    Mali’s Cellule de Planification et de Statistiques (CPS/SDR) is responsible for the annual implementation of the permanent ‘Enquête Agricole de Conjoncture’ (EAC), and the periodic implementation of the ‘Recensement Général de l’Agriculture et de l’Élevage’ (RGAE) following a list sampling frame. In a developing economy with high land use change dynamics, Sen2-Agri may unlock a number of improvements such as the use of area sampling frames;
  • Enhancing yield forecasts:
    EO performs a central role in statistical estimation of crop area and yields. However, in smallholder agriculture, these estimates are strongly constrained by spatial resolution. In Africa, the advent of Sentinel-2 increased the percentage of farm plots amenable to EO monitoring from 20 to 70%. This is a quantum leap in the granularity and temporality of observations, allowing EO to transition from a research effort to an operational production process;
  • Scaling agricultural insurance:
    The Sentinel missions provide an unprecedented opportunity to monitor crop condition in near-real time. They also hold potential for the monitoring at scale of smallholder agronomic practice and damage to crops. This will support the development of smallholder agricultural indemnity insurance alongside traditional weather and area yield index insurance. Sen2-Agri will thus help design and test new portfolios of socially differentiated insurance products to open business opportunities in smallholder markets.

The enormous promise of Sen2-Agri for the deployment of smallholder crop insurance was stressed, given its potential for monitoring recommended agricultural practices, and thus isolating the actual impact of insurable hazards.

It was also remarked that this National Stakeholders Consultation had been able to assemble a rare cross-section of otherwise fragmented agricultural actors, bearing testimony to the transformative potential of Sen2-Agri.

This feeling was summarized by P.S. Traore, the Sen2-Agri national pilot coordinator, hoping that the game changing nature of ESA’s Sentinel missions had left little doubt in stakeholders’ minds that the era of data scarcity was over, and that a paradigm shift was required to mainstream EO in agricultural and development practice – from the “first mile” to the national scale, and back.