Recap and Resources: 50x2030 Seminar: Integrating Surveys and Satellites for Agricultural Monitoring in Smallholder Farming Systems

On 15 April, 50x2030 hosted "Integrating Surveys and Satellites for Agricultural Monitoring in Smallholder Farming Systems," the first in its new seminar series that will highlight learning and tools emerging from activities under the Initiative. More than 350 people participated in a 90-minute exploration of how large-scale household surveys should be conducted to generate the data needed to train models for satellite-based crop type mapping in smallholder farming systems.

This inaugural seminar was based on the new 50x2030 working paper, Understanding the Requirements for Surveys to Support Satellite-Based Crop Type Mapping: Evidence from Sub-Saharan AfricaThe paper examines experiences and recommendations for integration of survey and satellite imagery for maize cultivation in Malawi and Ethiopia, using georeferenced plot-level data from national household surveys that are integrated with Sentinel-2 satellite imagery and geospatial data.

Authors of the working paper from the World Bank and Atlas AI were joined by discussants who commented on the implications of the findings for earth observation research and for large-scale household and farm survey data collection in Ethiopia and more broadly under the 50x2030 Initiative.

Panelists spoke to a range of issues, including the:

  • importance of satellite imagery and plot boundary data collection as it relates to livelihoods
  • need for accurate, crop-specific measures of area under cultivation, production and yields
  • need for strong survey data to train and validate the underlying models for integration
  • recommended approaches for the effective integration of the survey data and satellite imagery.

Discussions prompted dozens of questions from the audience on data and methodology, machine learning models, results of the study, generalization of the model and extensions, costing of the different models, policy relevance, and data sharing and privacy.

Robert Townsend, Lead Economist in the World Bank Agriculture Global Practice, chaired the event, while Talip Kilic, Senior Economist in the World Bank Development Data Group, and George Azzari, Chief Technology Officer at Atlas, AI presented the working paper. The discussants were Catherine Nakalembe, Africa Program Director, NASA Harvest; Aberash Tariku, Deputy Director, Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia; and Christophe Duhamel, 50x2030 Data Production Manager, Food and Agriculture Organization. 

To watch the full session, see here.

To review the PPT presentation, see here.