Thursday, December 3, 2015

Satellite-based rice forecasting to help the Philippines in disaster preparation

Makati City, Philippines - Rice farmers, particularly smallholder farmers, are vulnerable to the risks of drought, flooding, and pest outbreaks. Generating rice production forecasts, assessing the impact of disasters on the rice crop, and revealing the incidence of pests and disease are immensely valuable in planning mitigation and intervention strategies for supporting food security in the face of increasingly unpredictable weather patterns due to climate change.

These are the key points made by Dr. Alice Laborte, IRRI geographical information system specialist, at the forum on forecast-based emergency preparedness for climate risks. The forum is the first conference of the FoRECAST (Food Resilency in Emergencies and Climate Change Adaptation Systems Tracking) project of the World Food Programme (WFP)-Philippines.

“Accurate, timely, and detailed information enables policymakers, disaster response teams, crop insurance providers, researchers, and other stakeholders to assess the current and forthcoming status of the rice crop,” explained Laborte, who also leads the Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) project at IRRI. PRISM is a joint project of the Philippine Department of Agriculture, Philippine Rice Research Institute, sarmap, and IRRI.

“They need this information to act and adjust accordingly,”  Laborte said. In fact, Philippine Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala recently sought the assistance of PRISM in assessing rice fields affected by Typhoon Lando (international name: Koppu) using satellite images over Central Luzon.

Remote sensing-based Information and Insurance for Crops in Emerging economies (RIICE), another project at IRRI, also uses radar-based remote sensing technologies for observation and forecasting in selected parts of Asia to provide governments and other organizations with timely information on rice crop area and production for planning and responding to natural catastrophes. RIICE, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, is a collaborative initiative of IRRI, sarmap, Allianz, and GIZ.

“This forum is a venue for sharing scientific data, policies, and models for climate change adaptation, disaster resilience, and food and nutrition security, as well as understanding capacities and links between local and national early warning systems,” explained Praveen Agrawal, representative and country director of UN WFP-Philippines.  

The forum was held on 26 November in Makati City. It was attended by representatives from Philippine national and regional line agencies, academic and scientific/research institutions that can provide technical knowledge on forecasting and early warning systems, and provincial governments involved in the development and implementation of early warning standard operating procedures. 

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