Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New project aims to increase food security in Asia through satellite-based information

Twenty participants from different organizations gathered at IRRI headquarters on June 4-7, 2012 for a workshop on the new project called Remote sensing-based information and insurance for crops in emerging economies, also known as RIICE.

The workshop presents the first opportunity for national partners to meet with the RIICE project coordinators, to share information on the rice-growing environments and challenges in each country and to develop workplans for the coming cropping seasons.

The project's objective is to reduce vulnerability of smallholders engaged in rice production, in two ways: 
  • Improved information on rice production to help governments, agricultural intermediaries and relief organizations in better managing domestic rice production and distribution both during the normal growing cycle as well as after natural catastrophes strike, and  
  • Provide access to insurance solutions for governments, agricultural intermediaries (such as cooperatives or rural banks) and individual rural farmers to cushion the financial effects on farmers that stem from natural catastrophes such as flood and drought—the major causes for crop destruction in Asia
In achieving those two goals, the partners of RIICE will use remote sensing technology, based predominantly on high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite data. This data differs from optical satellite data in that it is radar-based and, hence, available regardless of weather conditions and light source (radar can “view through the clouds” and operates day and night).

RIICE expects to have the following impact: that rice production will increase in the long run due to farmers getting better access to information about the actual growth status of observed rice crops and forecasted yield, damage, and crop loss. Crop insurance is often an indispensable condition in obtaining an agricultural loan by a rural bank. Agricultural credit in turn, will spur investment into higher yielding crop sorts.

The RIICE project focuses on rice-growing areas in seven Asian target countries; Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam in the first 3 years.

A public-private development partnership is implementing the project. The partners are Sarmap SA, a Swiss-based technology company supplying the necessary remote sensing technology; IRRI, which coordinates national partners, collects field data, and estimates rice yield; Allianz Re, providing insurance services to small-holder farmers as beneficiaries; and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), providing capacity building to local aggregators. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is the main source of funding of the project.

RIICE is expected to improve existing agricultural insurance solutions and help to establish new ones that are more transparent and sustainable given the use of remote sensing technology. At the same time, RIICE is geared to provide more precise and timely information to governmental institutions, allowing them to make better decisions to enhance food security in the target countries.

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