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22 Sep 2015 | News

Nepal’s Digital Agriculture Atlas Launched

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The Digital Agriculture Atlas of Nepal takes data closer to decision makers by providing a one-stop shop for information related to food security. The digital atlas jointly developed by Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) launched on 26 August 2015 is the earliest component of an agriculture management information system. The Atlas and Monitoring System serves as a basis for agricultural and food security analysis and planning in Nepal.

Agriculture development is vital for the Nepalese economy as it generates employment to 66 percent of the total population and contributes approximately 35 percent of the GDP. However, the agriculture-based economy of Nepal is increasingly exposed to the threats of climate change, namely monsoon and drought.

ICIMOD, through its SERVIR-Himalaya Initiative, worked with MoAD to create the first ever web-based Agricultural Atlas of Nepal.

The Ministry, ICIMOD and World Food Programme are working to put a satellite remote sensing based crop monitoring system into use. The system will be the first of its kind in the country to provide information on crop growth, stress and early signs of drought, enabling officials to plan for and mitigate the effects.

“Food security is the most important fundamental right of every human being”, said Uttam Kumar Bhattarai, secretary, MoAD. “Nepal can make best use of its geographical diversity, farmers’ experiences, appropriate technologies, and sci-entists, to accelerate agriculture growth and ensure food security. For this, we have to adopt new technologies to formulate our policies based on reliable data. Initiatives like this Digital Agriculture Atlas as part of agriculture information dis-semination are crucial to fill the gap between policy decision and implementation.”

MoAD and other relevant organisations have been regularly producing statistics on parameters related to national-level food security. The data has traditionally been disseminated to its users through print copies.

“In 2012, we published a paper-based Agriculture Atlas,” explained Shib N. Shah, technical under secretary, MoAD. “Feedback, comments, and suggestions from users were crucial in understanding the need for a web based agriculture atlas that would be useful for a wide range of users.”

This realisation has prompted the development of the new digital atlas, which re-places the conventional dissemination system and provides free access for the public, through the internet, to vital information for agriculture planning, research, and overall economic development of the country. The atlas includes district-based statistics on cereal crops, cash crops, legumes, vegetables, fruits, livestock, and climate. It allows visualisation of the statistics for any given agri-culture product via customised maps, diagrams, and tables that also demonstrate the connections between several food security indicators. The statistics can be viewed for different years using the time slider tool.

The monitoring system, which relies on NASA’s MODIS sensor to monitor greenness to estimate how much photosynthesis is occurring on the ground below, also draws on information from the atlas. The monitoring system compares recent MODIS-derived vegetation data to the long-term historical average – available from the data in the atlas — to identify anomalies (departures from normal) to give agriculture managers and officers insight as to whether crop yields for the current year may be greater or lower than average.

ICIMOD’s Director General David Molden noted during the launch that the Digital Agriculture Atlas and monitoring system contributes to ICIMOD’s focus to capitalise on innovative earth observation technologies for sustainable mountain development.

“In ICIMOD, we have a range of specialists in this discipline, supported by NASA scientists and resources”, he said. “These fascinating technologies can only make sense when they are used on the ground and contribute to societal benefits. Employing technology like GIS and earth observation for agriculture management related decision making can directly yield results.”

Representatives from various agriculture agencies and organisations who attended the launch welcomed the Digital Agriculture Atlas and looked forward to using the data for their work. “This brings lot of information within a click, and provides a good way to transfer knowledge and research into action”, said Niru Dahal Pandey, programme director, Directorate of Agriculture Extension.

“The Digital Agriculture Atlas will enable its users, who are mostly decision makers, to look at different scenarios and plan for seed and seedling distributions and demonstration of agriculture technology as well”, said Anand Kumar Gautam of Nepal Agricultural Research Council.

To learn more about the “Digital Agriculture Atlas of Nepal”, please visit: http://geoportal.icimod.org/Home/ScienceAppDetail?appid=24


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