02 Jun 2022

Digital Earth Africa is currently partnering with the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) and FrontierSI to design an open-source framework for crop type mapping in Zambia. This collaborative project combines the services and tools of Digital Earth Africa with field data to develop a reproducible algorithm for crop type analysis. 

The framework will be produced by leveraging DE Africa’s cloud-based platform, data and services - such as the cropland extent map and GeoMAD in order to create reproducible workflows from data collection to crop type map production. These can then be shared with other organisations (or people) across Africa. 

The Digital Earth Africa Product Development and Validation Task Team, which includes members from DE Africa Implementing Partners across Africa, will ensure that the product is applicable to other regions. The team also has plans to collaborate with initiatives such as GEOGLAM, AGRA, and NASA SERVIR.

Recently the project team, led by RCMRD, have been out in the field collecting data using the ODK-based ECAAS field mapper tool kit. All field data collected will be made public through the Radiant Earth MLHub, and the algorithm developed in the project will also be shared as open source scripts. To support continuous field data collection, the team handed over tablets installed with the ECAAS tool to Mrs Peggy Mlewa, Director of Planning and Policy of the Ministry of Agriculture, Zambia and trained the Zambian team to use the tool. 

images of people assessing the ECAAS tool in the field
Crop labels collection using the ECAAS Tool by the Ministry of Agriculture staff.

Leveraging Digital Earth Africa’s free, open data and continental coverage, the framework will be fully scalable, allowing for future innovation towards greater food security for the continent by:

Accurately predicting crop yields on a national scale.

Extreme events such as drought or flood can take a heavy toll on crop yields across the continent, with smallholders particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change and extreme weather events. Equipped with the knowledge of which crops are growing where, governments will be able to model the effects of climate and weather on output, and the knock-on effects of this for feeding the population. Decision makers will better understand and predict crop yields, giving them the information they need to mitigate food security issues long ahead of a failed harvests. 

Empower smallholders to increase production via increased access to crop analytics. 

Without access to crop analytics, tracking crop types, boundaries and harvest information can be difficult. Without this information smallholders find it difficult to access capital or crop insurance. Access to crop analytics such as crop type mapping will support smallholders to increase production, predict yield and select appropriate crop types for the conditions affecting their land. 

Improved Digital Earth Africa services through user feedback

By collaborating with government users of mapping products, the project team will be able to understand user needs, collect relevant field data and gather critical feedback on preliminary products to design a framework that truly suits those who will use it most. 

The project runs from March to August 2022, and is funded by the Enabling Crop Analytics at Scale (ECAAS) initiative, implemented by Tetra Tech. The work will be delivered by a team including members from Digital Earth Africa, FrontierSI and the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD).

Staff accepting the tablets at RCMRD
Mrs. Peggy Mlewa Director planning and policy of the ministry of Agriculture Zambia receiving Tablets from RCMRD Ag. GIS Manager Eunice Wangui.
Mr. Justin Chuunka demonstrating to the Permanent Secretary Mr Green Mbozi, Ministry of Agriculture,
Mr. Justin Chuunka demonstrating to the Permanent Secretary Mr Green Mbozi, Ministry of Agriculture, how the ECAAS Tool is used in agricultural data collection. The meeting was attended by Precious Mwape, Peggy Mlewa, David Ongo, Eunice Wangui and Julius Buyengo. Missing in the photo is Mr. Justin Chuunka.