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Satellites & Internet Intel Aids Rural Poverty

In Battle Against Hunger And Rural Poverty, UN Uses Satellites And Internet

Using satellite imagery and spatial databases on the frontline of the battle against hunger and rural poverty, United Nations agencies have developed a new Internet-bases 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 on their own computer covering such variables as soil quality, vegetation and population density and marketing access.

“Geographic information is crucial in identifying problems and suggesting possible solutions,” the Rome-based FAO said in a news release today.

“FAO has taken a lead role in the area of spatial information management, not just in the UN system but generally. Other organizations value our experience in this area and seek our expertise in enhancing their own,” added John Monyo, Assistant Director-General of the agency’s Sustainable Development Department.

GeoNetwork is unique in that it is designed specifically to help developing countries improve their ability to manage spatial information, harmonizing and improving access to FAO’s spatial databases in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and food security. It promotes multidisciplinary approaches to sustainable development by allowing FAO, other UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and research institutions worldwide to share and distribute geographically referenced data more easily.

By overlaying various map layers, InterMap can illustrate the spatial relationship between a series of variables. It 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.

GeoNetwork has proved its effectiveness in the field. In Mozambique, 12 government and international agencies working on agriculture, food security and humanitarian issues have been using it since September 2003 to share information and avoid duplication. WFP has implemented the system in its regional bureaux in Senegal, South Africa and Uganda.

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