Innovative satellite technology is making rice-growing in Asia more efficient

16.09.2016 – GIZ is supporting rice farmers and countries in Southeast Asia in using satellite data to better monitor and manage their rice production.

How can we make globalisation fair and just? The Conference on the Future: Our World in 2030 – Learning from the Future, held in Munich yesterday, addressed this question. The conference was organised by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Deutsches Museum. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH presented a number of projects, including one on satellite monitoring of rice-growing areas in Asia.

Rice is one of the most widely grown and consumed food crops in the world. 90 percent of all the rice consumed worldwide is grown in Asia, where for many people rice is not just their staple food but also their main source of income. However, this region is at risk of flooding, typhoons and drought.

A partnership of public and private sector organisations has been supporting rice farmers and governments in Southeast Asia in monitoring rice production since 2013 to enable them to respond quickly if there is a threat of crop losses. GIZ is a member of this partnership, along with Allianz Re, the International Rice Research Institute, Sarmap and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

In conjunction with its local partners, the project is now monitoring 17 million hectares of rice fields using satellite data provided by the European Space Agency. This makes it possible to identify land under rice cultivation, growing cycles and yields. Droughts can also be detected early on, and the extent of flooding ascertained. As a result, the relevant agencies are able to forecast crop yields and respond efficiently and transparently to losses and damage.

This data can also be used for insurance purposes so that farmers can have their losses assessed and receive financial compensation during the same growing season. If there is enough time before the end of the season, they may be able to grow a second crop and minimise loss of income. In the past, farmers would typically have to wait many months for an insurance pay-out.

Satellite monitoring in Southeast Asia has already proved its worth many times over. For example, during the floods in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu in 2015, it was possible to get supplies to the worst hit regions just a few days after the rains began. Rice farmers in the town of Cuddalore received 50 tonnes of rice seed and 30,000 vegetable seedlings, enabling them to start growing new crops once the floods had receded.