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Africa: Famine Early Warning System Can Predict Food Shortages

USA – USAID established the famine early warning system (FEWS) to help prevent or respond to famine conditions in sub-Saharan Africa by giving decision makers specific information about drought conditions or dwindling crop yields based on satellite remote-sensing data.

Satellite sensors acquire images of the Earth and transmit the data to ground receiving stations worldwide. Once the raw images are processed, analysts can document changing environmental conditions like pollution, global climate change, natural resource distribution and urban growth.

In this effort, USAID partners with NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the United States, and collaborates with international, regional and national partners. Chemonix International, a global development firm, implements the program for USAID.

In 2000, the FEWS Network (FEWS NET) was formed to establish more effective, sustainable, African-led food security and partnerships to reduce the vulnerability of at-risk groups to famine and floods.

“At the beginning, it was primarily remote sensing,” Gary Eilerts, USAID program manager for FEWS NET, told America.gov. “It was pretty much looking at rainfall and vegetation and trying to say what we thought was happening in terms of food security.”