Blogpost by Damien Jacques et al: “Cashew nuts in Burkina Faso can be seen growing from space. Such is the power of satellite technology, it’s now possible to observe the changing colors of fields as crops slowly ripen.
This matters because it can be used as an early warning of crop failure and food crisis – giving governments and aid agencies more time to organize a response.
Our team built an exhaustive crop type and yield estimation map in Burkina Faso, using artificial intelligence and satellite images from the European Space Agency.
But building the map would not have been possible without a data set that GIZ, the German government’s international development agency, had collected for one purpose on the ground some years before – and never looked at again.
At Dalberg, we call this a “hidden data treasury” and it has huge potential to be used for good.
Unlocking data potential
In the records of the GIZ Data Lab, the GPS coordinates and crop yield measurements of just a few hundred cashew fields were sitting dormant.
They’d been collected in 2015 to assess the impact of a program to train farmers. But through the power of machine learning, that data set has been given a new purpose.
Using Dalberg Data Insights’ AIDA platform, our team trained algorithms to analyze satellite images for cashew crops, track the crops’ color as they ripen, and from there, estimate yields for the area covered by the data.
From this, it’s now possible to predict crop failures for thousands of fields.