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UN enlists satellite imagery in battle against poverty

Using satellite imagery and spatial databases on the frontline of the battle against hunger and rural poverty, UN agencies have developed a new Internet-based system to provide “vital agricultural information” to decision-makers in developing countries.

GeoNetwork’s InterMap viewer, developed jointly by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), allows users to overlay maps from multiple servers housed at development institutions worldwide to create a “customized thematic composite map” covering soil quality, vegetation and population density and marketing access.

GeoNetwork is designed specifically to help developing countries improve their ability to manage spatial information, through improved access to FAO’s databases in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and food security. By overlaying various map layers, InterMap can suggest, for example, the extent to which a poor transport infrastructure is keeping a region with a rich agricultural endowment in poverty. Its use of free, open-source software minimizes costs to users – a particular plus for those in developing countries, who can use, modify and redistribute the system source code and do not need to rely on foreign suppliers or costly proprietary software.