New Gro Data Set Reveals Impact of Drought Conditions

19 March 2019

MapSPAM, a data source newly implemented in Gro, shows users where the world grows its food. With pixel-level resolution, MAPspam illustrates global acreage distribution for over 40 crops important to world food security. By pairing MapSPAM data with other geospatial sources available in Gro, users can readily visualize and evaluate the impact of environmental events on crops in any region of interest.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), a USAID organization, has for the past few months been reporting growing food security pressures due to ongoing drought conditions in Horn of Africa countries, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. The region is currently in the midst of its dry season, and unusually high land temperatures have severely depleted soil moisture. Pastoralists and other nomadic groups make up a significant percentage of the region’s population, while crop and livestock production are used almost exclusively for subsistence. With many people still reeling from severe droughts that struck in 2011 and 2016, the Ethiopian government has appealed to the UN for $1.3 billion in emergency food and nonfood aid. The story is not much different in other Horn of Africa countries.

Corn is a staple food source in the region and Ethiopia’s most-produced grain. However, corn requires large amounts of rainfall to realize significant yields.

The maps below illustrate the Horn of Africa’s corn situation. On the left, we have a map showing evapotranspiration anomalies. Evapotranspiration is a measure of moisture loss, and anomalies over time can indicate changes in soil moisture and plant water use that may be caused by changes in rainfall, irrigation applications, fire, disease, or pests. The value expressed in each district indicates how much the February 2019 evapotranspiration rate deviates from the median historical rate for the decade ended 2013. Districts that appear orange have lower evapotranspiration rates, indicating they are drier than usual. Green districts show higher transpiration rates than usual, pointing to wetter conditions than is typical for that district.

On the right, we have a MapSPAM map that illustrates the concentration of corn acreage at the district level for Horn of Africa countries. Districts that appear yellow contain less dedicated corn acreage, while districts that appear green contain more corn acreage.

The evapotranspiration map on the left suggests that parts of the Horn of Africa region received some relief in February. Green values in some of Ethiopia’s higher elevation districts indicate atypically high soil moisture, greater transpiration rates, or both. The southern portion of Somalia, shaded in orange, still appears dry.

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