Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
European Commission

Earth observation can be used for fighting hunger

Earth observation can be used for fighting hunger

Detecting food crises


Satellite observation is the key instrument that will allow to double in 2010 the number of countries monitored in real time for detecting first indications of adverse agricultural outcomes. The new Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system facilitates and accelerates the reaction time in responding to food security crises by providing a common and internationally recognised classification of their severity.

The JRC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the American Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) are working to innovate and reinforce their food security monitoring systems and to develop more efficient early warning tools. These efforts come as a response to the 2007-2008 global food crises that significantly increased the number of countries under threat of famine.

The JRC will this year extend the real time monitoring system it has developed to forecast food crises. The monitoring will not only cover the Horn of Africa but all of the most food insecure countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. As the Earth observation and agroclimatic data regularly received by the JRC is global, other countries outside Africa can also be monitored in case of food security crises.

These efforts have been made possible by the new IPC system that is built on a large consensus and accepted internationally. At the same time, it avoids contradictory results deriving from the use of different scales and therefore facilitates the donors' response.

In December 2009, the European Commission decided to allocate € 1 276 269 (more than 1.7 million US dollars) over a period of 14 months to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).Together with the JRC, FEWS NET and the other organisations involved in the development of the classification, the FAO will implement the second phase of the IPC initiative in at least 8 focus countries (6 of which located in Sub Saharan Africa) through improved technical development, field support and institutionalisation.