Esri Software Helps NGOs Mitigate Risks to Smallholder Farmers
The Esri Nonprofit Organization Program is designed to provide conservation and humanitarian nonprofit organizations around the world an affordable means of acquiring ArcGIS software and services for organized volunteer efforts. Other types of nonprofit organizations may also be eligible for membership in the program. >>Learn More
Jim Baumann, Esri Writer
Since its founding more than 40 years ago, Esri has maintained a deep commitment to the goals and missions of nonprofit organizations. Esri's ethos is characterized by a passion to help society and the environment and a commitment to serve others. Esri believes that geographic information system (GIS) concepts, theories, and technology are uniquely appropriate to this mission of service and that geographic understanding can lead to a better world. GIS is integrative, able to include information from many different kinds of groups, cultures, and disciplines and unite it into a collaborative vision of how our world works and what we need to do to help it work better.
Over the years, Esri has initiated various grant programs and donated hundreds of millions of dollars in ArcGIS software, training, consulting, and project support to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the people and businesses that help them. Esri knows that nonprofit groups need the same tools and capabilities that large commercial groups and governments need.
"One of the guiding principles of our company is public service," says Jack Dangermond, president of Esri. "We have made a long-term commitment to the NGO community, particularly organizations involved with agriculture production, because of the widespread effect their efforts have on our global community. CGIAR [Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research] centers like IFPRI [International Food Policy Research Institute] and CIP [International Potato Center] are among the NGOs we have worked with for many years."
HarvestChoice Uses GIS to Help Business Support African Farmers
"Economic uncertainty increases both the perception and reality of risk," says Stanley Wood, cofounder and a senior research fellow with HarvestChoice at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, DC. "And," he continues, "no group has a greater sense of this uncertainty than the smallholder farmer."
Broad scale transformation of smallholder agriculture therefore requires significant growth in the provision of affordable public and private services and products that can mitigate subsistence farming risks. Some of these necessary changes include improvements in land titling, access to credit, crop and livestock extension support, and veterinary service provision, as well as greater ability to get reliable input supplies such as better seeds, fertilizers, and agricultural implements and machinery.
"Greater opportunities for smallholders to market their farm products are also needed through improved access to farm product collection and sales points, as well as storage, processing, and transit facilities," says Wood.
Recognizing these specialized, location-based information needs and the opportunity to help address them, HarvestChoice developed AgMarketFinder. This ArcGIS software-based query tool is used to pinpoint and evaluate locations across Africa for their suitability as operational bases in the support of smallholder farming efforts.
AgMarketFinder allows users to examine the service and market potential of any geographic location in sub-Saharan Africa through its map-based user interface. Available information includes production levels of the 20 principal crops grown in Africa; rural, urban, and total human population numbers; and the population of major livestock species. The most detailed results are provided by the travel-time-based query that generates estimates of crop production and human and livestock populations within different travel time bands (0–2, 2–4, 4–6, and 6–8 hours) from a user-specified location. Other query options generate reports of those same indicators according to either a user-selected administrative unit or a user-drawn boundary circumscribing a customized geographic area of interest. Watch Wood's demonstration of the capabilities and potential of the AgMarketFinder on YouTube.
CIP Maps the Dynamics of the Genetic Diversity of Peruvian Potatoes
International Potato Center in Peru is custodian to the world's largest collection of potato samples, amassed during the past 40 years. Numbering more than 7,000, the samples are preserved in an earthquake-proof, state-of-the-art conservation chamber. "The vast genetic diversity of our collection provides an insurance policy to counter the risk of climate change and other events that could affect potato cultivation worldwide," says Henry Juárez, CIP researcher. "Potatoes and other tubers are a staple part of the diet for many people in the world. Biodiversity sustains a wide variety of genetic traits that are very valuable for the potato's adaption to changing environments and successful cultivation in the future."
CIP is a research-for-development organization with a focus on potato, sweet potato, and Andean roots and tubers. It is one of 15 international agricultural research centers supported by Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. Founded in 1971, the mission of CIP has evolved from increasing crop productivity to the more complex challenge of alleviating hunger and poverty through the implementation of farming system innovations that support sustainable development. CIP's research includes analyzing the effects of climate change on potato cultivation, biodiversity conservation, maximizing food security, and ultimately improving the quality of life of smallholder farmers.
The central and southern Peruvian Andes are the richest area of potato biodiversity in the world. CIP employs high-resolution satellite imagery for ArcGIS software-based geospatial research on potato cropping, biodiversity hot spots, pest and disease incidence, and priority-setting cultivation opportunities for local farmers. CIP has also implemented community mapping projects to gather grassroots information about biodiversity conservation and local farming practices.
Data from the participatory mapping exercise allows CIP scientists to develop an understanding of the patterns of cultivation and the difference between the distinct potato cultivars grown in the Andean highlands. The data also provides material for researchers to draw conclusions about the effects of external phenomena, such as market forces and climate change, on traditional cultivation methods and cultivar potatoes. "We share our results and conclusions with the communities where the studies were originally conducted as well as the scientific community," says Juárez. "The data is not only useful to farmers as they plan their annual cultivation but [also] to scientists throughout the world who are studying the biodiversity and sustainability of this precious agricultural resource."
The Esri Nonprofit Organization Program provides software and support to nonprofit organizations, such as NGOs whose focus is on environmental and humanitarian initiatives. This program enables a worldwide community of thousands of conservationists and social activists to use GIS technology to fulfill their objectives by providing Esri software and capacity-building resources to qualified organizations and the developers that assist them.