NSO receives international innovation award for 'space for food security' program

The Netherlands Space Office (NSO) has been awarded the GEO Award in the Innovation category this year. It concerns the G4AW - Space for Food Security program, which NSO is carrying out on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The award was presented today by Dr Argyro Kavvada, who leads the Sustainable Development Goals activities at GEO.

The Geneva-based Group on Earth Observations (GEO) presents prestigious awards every year. In GEO, 112 countries and dozens of organizations - from the EU and NASA to the World Food Organization - work together to benefit most of Earth observation satellites for sustainable development.

GEO's motivation for awarding the prize to the NSO focused on the valuable work being done with G4AW - Space for Food Security. Small-scale farmers and herders in developing countries produce more and more sustainably thanks to the innovative use of satellite and other geodata. Since 2013, hundreds of thousands of families have already benefited from the advice and services resulting from the innovation, such as cultivation advice and insurance that takes into account regional climate changes. G4AW has since gained an international following and the market is growing, both on the supply and demand side.

Coffee farmer in Vietnam ©ICCO/GREENcoffee project

NSO director Harm van de Wetering received the award: “Our Dutch ambition is to support major social issues with the development of satellites and satellite services. In this particular project, we go further than just monitoring drought or crop changes from space. We have continued up to the level of giving concrete current agricultural advice to farmers. Hundreds of thousands of farmers are already being helped through this project in many ways to ensure better harvests and better incomes. It is something I have been proud of for many years that the NSO can do this utilizing space. It is absolutely great that a large international network is now awarding this prize to this program.”

Malian livestock farmers navigate with satellites

To help livestock farmers affected by drought or flooding, a G4AW project in Mali has set up a routing service to protect their cattle. The service converts satellite and other geo-localized data into location advice that is tailored to the farmers' needs. The farmers can then call or send a text message to get the information.

Pastoralist, herding cattle in Mali ©SNV Mali – STAMP

Game Changer

Taking the needs and possibilities of a farmer or herder as a starting and ending point turned out to be a real 'game-changer', emphasizes Ruud Grim, program manager at G4AW. “In every project, different public and private parties work together, each with their own specialism.

Smart use of satellite data in combination with other digital tools is part of this, but also knowledge of the market and access to local relationship networks.” It is this combination that provides small-scale food producers with opportunities to initiate another spiral: higher production, more stable family income, future prospects - without it becoming complicated or expensive. ”Our experience with these challenging projects makes each subsequent collaboration more effective. I also see a clear growth of service providers for whom the social impact is guiding in their offer and working method.”

Satellite information for farmers in Burundi

In Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world, there is a great need for useful agricultural information. A G4AW project formed the basis of the Agri-Coach app. Thanks to satellites this app provides farmers in the field with information about what crop to plant, when to plant and what crop management practices to perform during the season.

GAP4A digitising agriculture in Burundi ©Auxfin Burundi

Of course, the Innovation Award also reflects on G4AW's client. “At the time, it was quite a gamble for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to use space technology for better food security in developing countries. We don't regret that," says senior advisor Chris de Nie. “Thanks to G4AW, small farmers are now offered new digital options in an accessible way to achieve higher production and better respond to the changing climate. The latter is an even greater challenge in developing countries than here.”

Margret Kigozi, farmer in Uganda, SUM-Africa ©NSO/G4AW

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