PCI Receives Google Award Using Satellite Data to Help Pastoralists Find Greener Pastures

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$750,000 Seed Funding Expands Program in Ethiopia and Tanzania

PCI's innovative SAPARM program in Ethiopia

PCI's innovative SAPARM program in Ethiopia

The effects of drought and climate change are devastating the livelihoods of pastoralists across Africa, but state-of-the-art satellite imagery is helping find green pasture for their herds.

PCI (Project Concern International) received funding from Google today to expand its Satellite Assisted Pastoral Resource Management (SAPARM) program, which puts satellite derived vegetation data in the hands of pastoralists to aid them in making critical decisions on where to find available pasture throughout the year.

“The effects of drought and climate change are devastating the livelihoods of pastoralists across Africa, but state-of-the-art satellite imagery is helping find green pasture for their herds,” said George Guimaraes, president and CEO of PCI. “Our pilot program cut herd mortality in half, and, thanks to the generosity from Google, we will now expand in Ethiopia and Tanzania.”

"PCI’s work to use maps to empower herders looking for greener pastures throughout Africa with maps of grazing conditions has great potential to improve livelihoods,” said Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Google.org. “We're looking forward to seeing the potential impact of this innovation in 2015."

Each year in Africa, more than 200 million pastoralists seek available pasture for their herds using a combination of low-tech methods such as indigenous knowledge, scouts, and tips from others. Such methods have become increasingly unreliable due to climate change, leading to large scale herd mortality that erodes both income and food resources.

PCI initially received funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to pilot the approach. Traditional grazing maps were developed on paper with communities. They were then digitized and overlaid with satellite derived normalized differential vegetation index (NDVI), which is a measure of photosynthetic activity. Updated and distributed every ten days, these maps are used with traditional methods, and significantly aid pastoralists in finding available pasture within approved grazing areas that can cover thousands of square kilometers.

Initial results from the pilot found that 78% of households used these maps for migration decisions and a majority identified the maps as their most important information resource. After using the maps in the pilot community, herd mortality dropped by 47% compared to the previous three years, which amounted to millions of dollars in herd value.

With a $750,000 grant, PCI will expand pilot programs in Ethiopia and Tanzania to scale and further test the innovation.

About PCI: PCI’s mission is to prevent disease, improve community health and promote sustainable development worldwide. Motivated by a concern for the world’s most vulnerable children, families and communities, PCI envisions a world where abundant resources are shared, communities are able to provide for the health and well-being of their members, and children and families can achieve lives of hope, good health and self-sufficiency. For more information, visit http://www.pciglobal.org.

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Richard Parker
Project Concern International
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