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New version of FAO GeoNetwork launched

Rome, Italy, 24 April 2006: A new version of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s spatial data catalogue, FAO GeoNetwork, which provides agricultural information to decision-makers, allowing them to access satellite imagery, interactive maps and spatial databases from FAO, WFP, CGIAR and others, was launched on April 24.

The launch coincides with the release of a new version of the World Food Programme GeoNetwork, which contributes substantially to the effective sharing and dissemination of geographical datasets with major emphasis on food security and vulnerability issues. The WFP network includes nodes at WFP headquarters, regional bureaus and country offices.

The joint launch marks the start of a new era for spatial data sharing among UN agencies, allowing users to instantly see maps and related information from the different agencies together in one search.

The Second GeoNetwork Workshop will be held at FAO from 24 to 28 April 2006 and will be attended by partner UN agencies as well as the CGIAR institutes and other international partners. These partners in the GeoNetwork initiative are sharing data in the same manner and will soon be searchable through the FAO GeoNetwork.

Satellite imagery and spatial databases assist countries to fight hunger and rural poverty. Users overlay maps from multiple servers housed at development institutions worldwide to create customised thematic maps on their own computers covering such variables as land cover, soil quality, vegetation and population density and marketing access.

FAO GeoNetwork is a collaborative effort to provide a free and open source software based spatial data management system that is widely distributed and used. It adheres to international standards for geographic data sharing.

“When an emergency occurs, the maps created by the different agencies in their respective fields of expertise can be combined to see the relationship between different factors affecting the populations and the environment,” according to FAO’s expert in remote sensing, Jeroen Ticheler.

Spatial data sharing among UN agencies will help developing countries’ decision-makers isolate the causes of food shortages in their nations. It is a multidisciplinary approach to sustainable development that allows FAO, WFP, other UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and research institutions worldwide to share and distribute geographically referenced data more easily.