Blog

IPP ACCORD project endorsed by farmers in latest survey results



Original post here.

Farmers drying coffee

The success of the ACCORD project relies critically on the enthusiastic adoption of the service by the farmers themselves. Even the smartest technology is ultimately useless if the users themselves don’t embrace it.

A critical part of measuring the success and the impact of the ACCORD technology and service has therefore been to keep a regular check on farmer adoption of the technology, the impact on their farming practices and their overall satisfaction with the service they are receiving.

Farmers adopting agronomic practices by digging erosion channels ~ Courtesy SFBC Rwanda

We do that primarily through a quarterly survey of a sample of circa 160 farmers (male and female) drawn from across the participating cooperatives in both Kenya and Rwanda. We also ensure we have a representative sample of female farmers so that we can track adoption and impact by gender.

The surveys have been carried out throughout the programme, from the point farmers began receiving SMS messages from the ACCORD platform. Over time the project team has been able to track farmer attitudes and satisfaction, as well as the impact the technology is having on their farms – and capturing some deeper insights in their own words.

The results have been very positive from the outset. From the start feedback received has suggested that the application of advanced data-science driven technology can have an immediate and positive impact on meeting farmers’ needs, so long as it is delivered in an accessible and practical way.

June survey shows very positive feedback and steady progress

The latest survey has generated our best set of results to date – and given that we are close to reaching our target of 50,000 mapped fields and around the same number of participating farmers (40,000+ receiving the service right now) that is indeed most encouraging.

So, what have we found in the latest results? We look at several measures of adoption and satisfaction, and here’s the topline for the one’s we look at most closely:

  • 92.8% of farmers reported taking the recommended action in June 2020, compared with 91% a year ago.
  • 98.8% of farmers reported a positive change in their farming practices, in June 2020 as a result of accessing the service, compared with 92% a year ago.
  • 97.6% of farmers reported satisfaction with the service in June 2020, compared with 93% a year ago.
  • 96% of farmers reported a positive change in the health of their crop in June 2020, compared with 91% a year ago

Farmers also reported to have made some decisions that led to savings. 60% were able to manage farm labour and logistics well, improve crop management practices, and reduced operation costs. 29% indicated that they were able to apply the right amount of agro-inputs in the right way, avoiding wastage, and 12% managed to buy more effective type of agro-inputs (which also depends on the farmers’ availability of funds).

Despite these very positive results, we do remind ourselves that good as the feedback from farmers is, the results on the ground in terms of improved farming and better yields is what ultimately counts. Therefore, we are far from complacent and the Covid19 pandemic is a timely reminder that there are many environmental factors that challenge smallholder farmer resilience and sustainability.

Challenges remain on the ground

Beyond the surveys we conduct occasional farmer focus groups so that we can delve deeper into the challenges they face, and the factors that affect their ability to act on the advice they receive from the service.

Most farmers cite challenges in having access to inputs at the time they need them most, or the right type, or that they can’t afford them at that point in time. Similarly, access to labour to carry out the work can be a problem, one that has been exacerbated by the impact of lockdown on the movement of labour in rural areas during the current pandemic. These are challenges that technology alone cannot solve. There must also be market and logistical solutions that enable farmers to act effectively, when they know what needs to be done, based on ACCORD alerts and advice.

It is our fervent belief therefore that ACCORD technology is an enabler not a full solution in itself. Knowledge is power they say – and rightly so – but only if that knowledge can be acted upon effectively and, as climate change constantly reminds us, in a timely manner.

International Partnership Programme

The International Partnership Programme (IPP) is a five-year, £30 million-per-year initiative run by the UK Space Agency. It focuses on using the UK space sector’s research and innovation strengths to deliver sustainable economic or societal benefit to developing economies around the world. IPP is part of, and is funded from, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). GCRF is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government which supports cutting-edge research and innovation on global issues affecting developing countries.

World Ocean Day – sustainable innovation for our oceans



June 8th is World Oceans Day. This year, the theme is Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean.

Marine ecosystems sit at the heart of many of the world’s global challenges: food, medicines, biodiversity, clean energy, climate regulation, job creation and inclusive growth. However, exploitation of our ‘blue economy’ is rife, from illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing to pollution caused by various industries both on land and at sea. We need to safeguard and improve the health of marine ecosystems to support the worlds growing use of marine resources.

Innovation for sustainable oceans is needed.

The UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP) is supporting organisations to use innovative space technology to solve development challange across a wide range of sectors, including solutions to reduce and prevent IUU, decrease coastal erosion, promote safety at sea and detect and respond to pollution.

IPP has funded six projects that support innovation for our oceans. Verumar in the Philippines and Satellite-Enabled Maritime Domain Awareness for Chile’ (SEMDAC) are demonstrate the value of using satellite data and advanced algorithms in detecting IUU fishing. Satellites for sustainable fishing in Indonesia and South Africa Safety Initiative
for Small vessels’ Operational Take‑up (OASIS-TU)
in Malaysia and South Africa are working towards improving safety at sea. And Coastal Risk Information Service (C-RISE) is supporting coastal populations from the consequences of climate variability and change in Madagascar, Mozambique and South Africa.

The video below provides a snapshot of the positive impact that Earth and Sea Observation (EASOS) having on detecting oil spills off the coast of Malaysia using space solutions.

World Environment Day – Time for Nature



June 5th is World Environment Day. It is most renowned day for environmental action. This year, the theme is biodiversity.

Biodiversity is foundational, it supports all life on land and below water. It affects human health, providing clean air and water, nutritious foods, disease resistance, and climate change mitigation.

However, human actions, including deforestation, encroachment on wildlife habitats, intensified agriculture, and acceleration of climate change, have pushed nature beyond its limit.

The UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP) is supporting organisations to use space technology to solve development challange across a wide range of sectors, including solutions to reduce and prevent de-forestation, improve biodiversity and increase climate resilience in agriculture.

IPP has funded six projects on forestry and land management which are providing tools to support improved forest governance. When applied, these are expected to ultimately slow deforestation rates in project regions by providing local forest authorities with actionable intelligence. Furthermore, a cost effectiveness analysis of the forestry projects found that space-enabled solutions where 11.8 times more cost effective in the long term when compared to non-space alternatives. The video below provides a snapshot of the positive impact that the IPP is having on preventing deforestation through using space solutions.

Remote [Common] Sensing for climate resilience



A dictionary definition of common sense says it is “The basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way”. And that is at the heart of what one project in the IPP portfolio – ‘CommonSensing’ – is doing in partnership with the Pacific island nations of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Among many others, these Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are at the frontline of the devastating effects of climate change; indeed, as I write this, Pacific SIDS are being savaged by Severe Tropical Cyclone Harold. Therefore, the immediate threat posed by climate change requires a global effort to not only help them recover from such devastating weather events in the short term, but also to become more resilient in future.

‘CommonSensing’ is using satellite remote sensing technology to help Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu with improved food security, disaster risk reduction and better access to international climate finance. Led by the United Nations’ Institute of Training and Research’s (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), and with a consortium of partners including the Satellite Applications Catapult, Commonwealth Secretariat and University of Portsmouth, the project is in its third year, has provided technical training to a large variety of government representatives (policymakers), and is on track to deliver the agreed satellite and geospatial solutions.

In November, a small project team, accompanied by UKSA representatives, capitalised on being in-region for the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Ministerial in Canberra by adding on a visit to meet with ‘CommonSensing’ stakeholders in Fiji. The weather was typical for that time of year – warm but rained heavily most days – so the delegation had a taste of how severe weather events suffered by so many SIDS (Small Island Developing States) around the world, exacerbated by climate change, can devastate infrastructure, crops and livelihoods.

UKSA and CommonSensing Team Visit to Fiji

The team met with a variety of stakeholders, including the British High Commissioner and a press conference hosted by the Permanent Secretary for Economy, to discuss climatic issues faced by Fiji (and other SIDS) and how ‘CommonSensing’ data will provide their government with more reliable information for better decision making, ultimately enhancing their probability of securing international climate finance. But what really struck us was how every person we met – from taxi drivers and hotel staff to senior government officials – was gravely concerned about rising sea levels and hugely valued the support being provided through programmes such as IPP.

We also visited two coastal villages and were invited to join traditional ‘kava’ ceremonies at each, during which the elders informed us of the issues faced on a daily basis due to rising sea and rainwater levels, and the defensive work being done to avoid these longstanding communities having to leave their homes permanently and move inland. We saw two different types of flood gates in place which seem to be highly effective in holding back seawater. However, such installations require significant national/international investment and are not always as extensive as they need to be; in one of the villages visited the local school was just metres from the beach and totally open to the elements. It was clear that further funding and better data to inform government planning are in urgent need.

Coastal Defences in Fiji

The visit was also an opportunity to meet with the Fijian in-country representative (‘CommonSensing’ has recruited one for each of the targeted SIDS in addition to Climate Finance Advisors). Having such resource in place is a major advantage for IPP projects as they provide local knowledge and expertise, ensure ongoing engagement with key stakeholders and, through this, can often open doors which would not be accessible by the external project team.

Pacific SIDS are involved in another IPP project – ‘RE-SAT’ – which is delivering a Renewable Space Analytics Tool. IPP’s third competition also included a strategic call targeting Pacific SIDS in partnership with Australia and news on that will be released soon.

UK Space Agency – Covid-19 Sector Awareness Survey & Fortnightly Webinar



UK Space Agency – Covid-19 Sector Awareness Survey & Fortnightly Webinar

This an update on the UK Space Agency’s plans to support the space sector to mitigate and recover from the impact of COVID-19. This is our highest priority, and several dedicated teams are now working across the Agency to provide immediate business support and develop a longer-term recovery plan.

Weekly Sector Awareness Survey

We have partnered with UKspace to understand how space companies are being impacted by COVID-19 through a regular weekly survey, open to all UK-based space organisations. It is vital we capture the full breadth of the sector through this process, so we can understand how severe the impact is, specific issues that you are encountering, and what additional support we can provide.

As the government moves its thinking from crisis response to long-term recovery, it will allocate support to those sectors that can clearly articulate what they require.  This weekly survey will be the route through which the UK Space Agency can advocate on behalf of the space sector, and inform what targeted support and funding we can directly offer to industry.

This survey is open to all UK-based space organisations and takes ten minutes to complete, once a week. Please register for access through UKspace’s COVID-19 Portal.

COVID-19 Fortnightly Webinar

A series of COVID-19 Webinars will provide an update on how UK space companies and academia are being impacted by the pandemic, as well as the latest advice, information, and resources available. You will also have the opportunity to engage directly with senior leadership from government and industry and share how COVID-19 is impacting your organisation.

They are open to anyone working in a UK-based space sector organisation. The next webinar takes place on Thursday 14 May from 2.00pm. Please click here to register.

These webinars are hosted in partnership between the UK Space Agency, the Department for International Trade, UKspace, the Satellite Applications Catapult, ESA, ADS and the Satellite Finance Network.

Additional Queries

If you have any additional queries, please use one of the channels below:

In addition to the channels above, you can always the IPP inbox (ipp@ukspaceagency.gov.uk) with any programme/project enquiries.

Covid-19 and the International Partnership Programme



As a funding agency, it is necessary for the UK Space Agency (UKSA) to assess the impact of COVID-19 on all our programmes.

We have initially focused on ensuring that UKSA has the necessary staff, capacity and processes in place to continue to offer a service in terms of monitoring projects and funding our programmes; in parallel the International Partnership Programme (IPP) team has engaged with project leads (primes) to fully understand the challenges they are likely to face over coming months (3, 6, >6-month period) and impacts on respective project progress.

Based on these early discussions, UKSA remains committed to the continuation of IPP and collaboration with partner countries during this unprecedented period. As a result, the IPP team is adopting a ‘business as usual’ approach for the next 3 months.

The IPP team is working flexibly with respective project Primes and partners (who have diverted efforts to home-based tasks and virtual meetings) to address any COVID-related issues/delays.  All projects are being asked to inform the IPP team as soon as any issues arise to discuss options.  This applies to Call 3 projects too, where the IPP team is working closely with Primes to understand any issues with a view to placing grants as soon as possible but accepting there will be delays due to COVID.  Due to these delays it is unlikely we will be releasing a public statement in May confirming which Call 3 projects have been placed on grant; however all Call 3 projects who have been selected are already working with IPP, and all unsuccessful Call 3 applicants have been made aware and have received feedback on their proposals. 

Additionally, please note that the UK Space Agency is working in partnership with the space sector’s trade body, UKspace, to collect information on how the sector is being affected. If you are encountering any difficulties or require more information, please click here: https://www.ukspace.org/space-sector-covid19-surveys/.

With thanks for your cooperation, and best wishes to you all,

IPP team

METEOR: Modelling Exposure Through Earth Observation Routines



METEOR is a UK Space Agency International Partnership (IPP) project addressing the poor understanding, in some ODA countries, of population exposure to multiple natural hazards. With that in mind, METEOR is co-developing satellite-based Earth Observation (EO) routines to deliver robust information on population exposure and its vulnerability to multi-hazards including earthquakes, flooding, landslides and volcanoes. 

This project is led by the British Geological Survey (BGS) in partnership with the National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET), the Disaster Management Department of the Prime Minister’s Office of Tanzania (DMD), the Global Earthquake Model Foundation (GEM), ImageCat, FATHOM, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) and Oxford Policy Management (OPM). 

To date the project has delivered: classification schemes for building exposure and population, loss data fragility models, national hazard footprints for Nepal (seismic, flood, landslide) and Tanzania (seismic, flood, volcanic) and a methodology for integrating multi-hazards with exposure data.

Frequent meetings of the consortium have improved the outputs of the project, and encourage knowledge exchange and co-development. A recent meeting of project partners in Nepal also included two stakeholder events – one aimed at policymakers and another for technical users. In these sessions, we discussed the methods employed to collect the exposure data from EO techniques and to aggregate these with ground-based surveys (led by Ramani Huria for the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team in Tanzania and Kathmandu Living Labs in Nepal). We also discussed the national hazard footprints and received valuable feedback on their usability. 

In the coming months, METEOR will deliver national exposure data for both Nepal and Tanzania, as well as exposure data for all of the remaining LDC ODA countries (at a lower resolution). We will also provide multi-hazard assessments for both Tanzania and Nepal using the framework developed in this project, as well as developing training materials for the various METEOR outputs. The METEOR data and methods are being made openly available through online portals. More information about METEOR can be found at https://meteor-project.org.

Policy stakeholder workshop in Kathmandu, November 2019

Meet satellite technology’s latest sector: How space tech can be used in financial services



While satellites capable of imaging the Earth have been in orbit for decades, the space sector is now undergoing a revolution. Due to advances in manufacturing techniques and innovation in space technology, there is an abundance of satellites imaging the Earth’s surface, providing an increase in Earth Observation [EO] data. Crucially, some of this new data is being provided to users free of charge. The parallel revolution in computer processing power and data science has allowed software to handle and automatically process EO data to extract insights. As costs fall and analytical products and platforms mature, space solutions will increasingly provide the opportunity to tackle numerous global development challenges. 

Satellite technology is now frequently used in disaster preparedness and response and in monitoring various environmental conditions such as in forestry and agriculture. While these sectors are more mature in their use of space technology, other sectors are taking note of the potential of the low-cost, high-coverage, repeatable and global nature of EO data in particular and of the capabilities of SatComms. Finance is one of those sectors. 

Caribou Space, in partnership with the UKSA International Partnership Programme [IPP] conducted research that explored the current applications of space technology to increase access to affordable financial products to customers in developing countries. Through interviewing organisations at the forefront of developing and providing financial services using space technology the report explores a number of use cases for insurance, credit and payments, including: 

  • Risk modelling to inform insurance policies 
  • Insurance and loan portfolio monitoring and risk mitigation 
  • Design of efficient index-based insurance products
  • Remote decision making on verification of insurance claims
  • Remote decision-making on credit risk profile
  • Satellite communication enabling payments and transactions in remote areas 

Through an analysis of these use cases – a number of themes around the use of space technology for financial services are discussed i.e. which sectors, types financial services and business models are dominant. 

Lastly the report reflects on what is the impact on both business and financial service users, when space technology is used. 

While using Space technology for financial services is comparatively new, it is clear that space technology offers advantages in areas where other sources of information are limited. The analysis presented in this report provide a perspective and a path forward to leveraging space technology in financial services. The future is bright for space technology in the finance sector, and now is the time to seize this opportunity. Access the report here. 

IPP Presence in UK Space Conference



The International Partnership Programme was well represented at the 2019 UK Space Conference which this year welcomed its highest number of delegates so far (>2,100).   

Session hosted by David Taverner (Caribou Space) on the use of space for international development

A 30-minute ‘101’ on IPP was held on the first day of the Conference, by IPP’s Head of International Relations, Liz Cox, who chaired the session and was joined by two representatives of the Forests 2020 project: Sarah Middlemiss of Ecometrica and Yakubu Mohammed of the Forestry Commission of Ghana. This combination of speakers facilitated synopses from a programme/project level and prime/end user perspective, providing valuable insights into the opportunities and challenges of delivering satellite solutions for sustainable development. 

An IPP panel discussion was also held on ‘How space is enabling international development – from climate resilience to disaster response’. David Taverner, from Caribou Space, chaired the session and was joined by Alison Hall (Alcis), Yakuba Mohammed (Forestry Commission Ghana), Liliana Castillo Villamor (University of Aberystwyth), Prof Heiko Baltzer (University of Leicester) and Dr Gina Tsarouchi (HR Wallingford). The panel focused on the advances in satellite and machine learning technology that are enabling their application in a wide range of developing world contexts – including monitoring of refugee camps in Afghanistan and increasing yields of crops in Colombia and Peru.  

The conference coincided with the launch of a series of reports which highlighted the impact and the value for money which the IPP programme delivers.