The Environment and Natural Resources Service

The Environment and Natural Resources Service comprises Remote Sensing, Agrometeorology, Geographic Information System (GIS), Environment, Energy and Organic Agriculture, as well as the secretariat of the in-house working groups for the international Environmental Conven tions and the Global Terrestrial Observing Systems. Its overall mission is to contribute to and promote environmental and natural resources management and conservation in the context of sustainable agriculture, rural development, and food security in the world. The SDRN provides technical support and advisory services in some 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and central and eastern Europe.

Using remote sensing, GIS, and agrometeorological tools, SDRN collects, archives, and processes data on renewable natural resources to provide information on environment and food security. It provides computer-based access to many of the GIEWS information sources and allows, for instance, the rapid display of Advance Real Time Environmental Monitoring Information System (ARTEMIS) imagery and monitors vegetative development over Africa (FAO, 1997).

Through the cooperation with the Global Inventory Modeling and Mapping Studies (GIMMS) group of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the Tropical Applications of Meteorology using Satellite group of the University of Reading, an operational processing of METEOSAT thermal infra red (TIR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (NOAA-AVHRR) Global Area Coverage (GAC) (http://metart.fao.org/default.htm) data was implemented. METEOSAT data were used to monitor rainfall and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) imagery derived from the AVHRR instrument to monitor vegetation development. All products were made available at a common resolution of 7.6 km. The system acquires and routinely processes, in real-time, hourly estimates of rainfall and NDVI (chapters 5 and 6) images, using METEOSAT and NOAA data. The system covers the whole of Africa, and the products are produced on 10-day and monthly bases for use in the field of early warning for food security. Related technology transfer is being implemented through regional remote-sensing projects in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regions with financial assistance from the governments of Japan, The Netherlands, and France, the European Union (2000), and the FAO Regional Office for Africa in Accra, Ghana. ARTEMIS, which assisted SADC in establishing a remote sensing and GIS capacity for its regional food security early warning system, has made significant progress in developing suitable information products, which are now available to various types of users in a timely fashion, using data transmissions through e-mail. In 1988, ARTEMIS generated only imagers (Polaroid prints) for distribution by diplomatic pouch or mail. Since 1998, the quality and geographic coverage of products available with ARTEMIS have greatly improved on account of acquisition of the SPOT-4/VEGETATION data purchased by FAO with the support of the European Union (EU) and developed in close technical cooperation with the Global Vegetation Monitoring Unit of the Joint Research Center of the European Community (http://marsunit.jrc.it/Africa/; FAO, 1997).

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