Using geospatial technology and Earth observations to monitor and forecast drought in Vietnam and address agricultural productivity impacts

Source(s): United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

This map generated from SERVIR-Mekong’s Regional Drought and Crop Yield Information System shows dry spell areas throughout Vietnam during the drought of 2015.

This map generated from SERVIR-Mekong’s Regional Drought and Crop Yield Information System shows dry spell areas throughout Vietnam during the drought of 2015.

This post was written by Farrukh Chishtie, PhD, Science and Data Lead, SERVIR-Mekong, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center

Droughts are slow-onset disasters that trigger significant environmental impacts, including loss in agricultural productivity across the globe. The Lower Mekong region is no exception. Recently, Vietnam has been contending with droughts and resulting damages, especially in 2015 when it suffered heavy losses, especially in rice crop yields.

To better understand and plan for future droughts in the region, SERVIR-Mekong approached the Vietnam Academy for Water Resources (VAWR) to develop a drought monitoring service. Following several rounds of consultations incorporating SERVIR’s service planning approach, a wide range of stakeholders - including farmers and local government officials - provided feedback identifying the Ninh Thuan and Bin Thin provinces as the most promising pilot sites for testing the Regional Drought and Crop Yield Information Service (RDCYIS). This service provides comprehensive drought monitoring and forecasting models, plus crop yield information, to assist local governments and the agricultural sector with seasonal drought forecasting and in implementing short- and long-term mitigation measures during and in advance of droughts. 

The RDCYIS approach involves leveraging satellite-based Earth observations in a coupled hydrological and crop yield model called the Regional Hydrological Extreme Assessment System (RHEAS). This model produces testable results that can be used as a decision support tool by a diverse set of stakeholders, ranging from policy makers to farmers. Also important is that RHEAS uses freely available data and the software is open source, which is a key driver for the sustainability and co-development of this technology in Vietnam.

By comparing satellite data with available on-the-ground crop reports, the RHEAS model has undergone a calibration and validation process, helping to build consensus on current crop conditions. In addition, the successful co-development of this model has led the Academy to now feature results in their monthly drought bulletins. Based on these successes, the Academy has officially agreed to pursue the next stage of development on testing and using rice crop yield outputs in collaboration with SERVIR-Mekong. This recent development demonstrates the strength of this relationship and paves the way for continuing efforts to meet user needs in a sustainable manner. For example, during recent stakeholder consultations with farmers, SERVIR-Mekong and its consortium partner the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) identified various gaps - including social and gender inequities - with affected stakeholders. Based on these findings, tailored capacity building efforts are being planned for the effective use of information provided by the RDCYIS service.

SERVIR-Mekong, hosted at the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, is a joint initiative between USAID and NASA, which uses publicly available satellite imagery and technologies to support governments and other stakeholders in the Lower Mekong to address development issues related to disaster impact, food security, and environmental changes.

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