Moja Global: Creating Open Source Tools to Help the Environment

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Communities members plant tree seedlings in Kenya as part of a forest carbon project supported by CCI. Photo credit: Mary Petrini.


ROBERT WATERWORTH MAY 17, 2016


To understand and address issues such as land degradation, deforestation, food security, and greenhouse gas emissions, countries need access to high-quality and timely information. As these challenges have become more urgent over the past decade, the need for more information has also increased. At the recent 2016 Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, we introduced a new open source project called Moja Global, supported by the Clinton Foundation and the governments of Australia, Canada, and Kenya, that aims to provide the tools necessary to help address these issues.

The past decade has seen considerable advances in satellite technology and methods. There have also been large-scale campaigns collecting ground measurements, which can be combined with satellite data to produce the information required by countries to plan and respond to land management issues.

Unfortunately, few tools exist that can integrate these data into coherent, operational systems. Instead, analysis of satellite and ground data largely continues in isolation, often with little consideration of the expected end uses or actual country needs.

This is partly due to the lack of generic tools that allow countries to combine their own ground and satellite data to meet their specific needs. This also leads to countries building several smaller, custom-developed tools. This is slow, inefficient, and results in a proliferation of approaches and systems that are not comparable.

FLINT

The Moja Global project will help provide software and data solutions for countries and communities to better manage their land. The initiative aims to develop and manage new generic tools that can be used by any country, NGO or private sector organization to combine satellite and ground data to develop efficient and credible systems that put useful data into the hands of decision makers.

Specifically, the Moja Global team has developed a new integrating tool, the Full Lands Integration Tool (FLINT) that combines satellite and ground data in ways that meet policy needs. The FLINT is based on more than 20 years of experience building and operating similar tools in Australia and Canada, but additional development work is needed.

The FLINT makes developing and operating advanced systems achievable by all countries. It is a generic platform with a modular structure, allowing countries to attach any variety of models or data to build country-specific systems. The platform handles complex computer science tasks, such as the storage and processing of large data sets, leaving users to focus on monitoring, reporting and scenario analyses. The first implementation of these concepts has been demonstrated in Kenya with the System for Land Emission Estimation for Kenya (SLEEK), which runs on the FLINT platform.

Open Source Support Is Needed

But simply having a new tool is not enough. The FLINT needs to be supported and managed at a level that gives governments and other users confidence that it will be sustained in the long-term. Moja global aims to provide this confidence by managing the FLINT as collaboratively developed, professional-grade software. Moja global can also be used to house other software required by governments and other users, such as satellite data processing methods, databases, and GIS processing tools.

A key element of the FLINT is that all of the software will be open source. True open source approaches are uncommon in the land sector software world. Most groups simply place the code on GitHub without licensing or processes that foster a diverse developer and user community. Jim Zemlin’s opening presentation at the 2016 Collaboration Summit provides a clear path that needs to be followed if we are to move away from this.

We look forward to working with organizations like The Linux Foundation to create a true open source approach to land sector software — bringing the experience and expertise of the open source developer community for the good of the planet.

This is just the first step in, hopefully, a long journey. Numerous obstacles lie ahead, that are common to many other software projects. The Moja Global project must actively address issues of funding, developer time, documentation, community management, organizational roles, and project management. We invite you to join us in building Moja Global into a vibrant open source project working to create the tools that countries and communities need to improve land management.

To find out more about Moja Global and assist in the development of the FLINT, please contact us at info@moja.global, or @mojaglobal on Twitter.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the Linux and retrieved on 05/17/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


 

Can development and conservation go hand in hand in Colombia’s Orinoquia region?

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Photo Source: CIAT


by Glenn HymanAug 10, 2017


A diverse group of environmental and private sector specialists met in Bogotá last week to discuss how to achieve sustainable development in Colombia’s Orinoquia region. Meeting participants explored possible scenarios of sustainable development that reconcile nature protection and improve human well-being. Organized by the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP), participants discussed potential development scenarios for the principal agricultural and land use sectors and how these might affect biodiversity and ecosystem services in the region. The SNAPP working group on land-use change in the Orinoquia region is a two-year effort to evaluate development impacts on ecosystem services and livelihoods, and how to support planning processes and decision making with scientific analysis.

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Dr. Jaime Bernal of the Colombian Corporation for Agricultural Research (CORPOICA, its Spanish acronym) discussed soil ecosystem services of the Orinoquia region.

Agroindustry representatives and conservation specialists had a unique opportunity to discuss how to balance development and environmental concerns. Participants noted a number of limitations to development in the region, such as lack of transportation infrastructure, lack of timely access to water resources, land tenure insecurity, and corruption. They overwhelmingly agreed that the best future scenario is green growth, with agro-industry representatives recognizing the importance of nature protection and conservation specialists recognizing the importance of improving livelihoods. They also agreed that the worst future scenario is unplanned development or the current trend in the region. However, most participants had a rather negative view of the most likely scenario, which is much closer to the worst-case than the ideal scenario. The discussion highlighted general agreement between agro-industry and conservation specialists on the need for green growth, but difficult challenges, given past experience.

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A group of scientists and conservation specialists discussed key environmental and sustainable development challenges facing the region, such as fire, reducing CO2 emissions, soil health, water resources, biodiversity, and livelihoods. They noted the need to synthesize existing research, how the heterogeneity of the region defies simple generalizations, the importance of understanding the historical dynamics behind the different drivers of change, and the need to adopt whole landscape and participatory approaches in order to integrate sustainable development concerns in the region.

The SNAPP land-use change working group for the Orinoquia region organized the August 2ndBogotá meetings, which included representatives from agro-industry, conservation organizations, government agencies, and university and research institutions. A morning session on August 2ndincluded conservation specialists and scientists discussing key issues related to land-use change impacts on ecosystem services. The working group and officials of the BioCarbon Fund’s Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL) held a lunch meeting to discuss how SNAPP could support ISFL, a payment-for-results initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region. Finally, in the afternoon, representatives of the private sector and conservation specialists met to discuss limitations to development and future scenarios. The working group is developing a partnership with institutions and individuals developing analyses and models to support development planning and decision making in the region. For more information about SNAPP, contact German Forero at the Wildlife Conservation SocietyTomas Walschburger at The Nature Conservancy, or Glenn Hyman at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the CIAT and retrieved on 08/10/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


 

Scientists are telling BP and Total to stay away from the Amazon Reef

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Photo Source/Credit: GREENPEACE


By Mal Chadwick – 28 July, 2017 at 17:34


Researchers, naturalists, explorers and broadcasters are joining the call for oil companies to leave the Amazon Reef alone. The latest call to protect the reef came as an open letter highlighting the importance of this unique environment, and warning of the threat from an oil spill nearby.

BP and Total are trying to get permission to drill for oil near the Amazon Reef, but this group of experts called for the companies’ plans to be put on hold, saying that “The priority should be to protect the reef and surrounding waters in order to conduct further research.”

This letter adds more pressure on BP and Total to cancel their plans to drill. So far, over a million people have signed the petition against oil drilling near the Amazon Reef, and more than 29,000 people have written to BP’s CEO in protest.

A fascinating puzzle

One of the first images of the Amazon Reef 28 Jan, 2017  © Greenpeace

For ocean scientists, the Amazon Reef is a fascinating puzzle, full of new discoveries and surprising twists. In just a few days of exploring the reef, researchers believe to have found not only three potential new fish species , but also dozens more that had not been spotted in the area before.  Scientists believe the Amazon Reef is also home to large numbers of critically endangered fish—yet another reason why an oil spill nearby would be devastating to the environment.

This first expedition only covered a tiny fraction of the 600 mile-long reef, so with most of this ecosystem still unexplored, the biggest discoveries are likely still to come.

But BP and Total’s dangerous oil drilling plan could devastate this special place before we’ve had a chance to study it properly. There’s little evidence that the oil companies have taken the risk of a spill seriously, and they haven’t been able to show that they could deal with an accident in the strong currents and deep, murky waters near the mouth of the Amazon River.

Want to help stop BP and Total? Sign the petition to protect the Amazon Reef.

Mal Chadwick is a digital campaigner for Greenpeace UK


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the Greenpeace and retrieved on 07/28/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


 

 

Australia to ax support for long-term ecology sites

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An Australian agency plans to pull the plug on a long-term ecological monitoring program in the stunning Simpson Desert.


By John PickrellAug. 11, 2017 , 5:10 PM


SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—The Simpson Desert of central Australia is as starkly beautiful as it is ecologically entrancing. Ranks of rusty red sand dunes run unbroken for hundreds of kilometers. During rare years with sustained downpours, moist swales are carpeted with spiky spinifex grasses that take on the appearance of fields of golden wheat. Desert ecosystems dominated by spinifex or Triodia grasses cover about 70% of Australia, but the only long-term experiment for studying them is set in a section of the desert in western Queensland—and that research site is now in jeopardy.

Launched in 1990, the study has shown that heavy rains cause flushes of vegetation and seeds that lead to booms of insects, small marsupials, and rodents. Outback pools draw immense swarms of parakeets called budgerigars. That explosion of life attracts feral foxes and cats, which have had a role in the extinction of 27 species and subspecies of mammals in Australia since European colonization in 1788. The invasive species ravage the native ones, which may spend many years hunkered down in scrubby woodland refugia until fresh downpours start the cycle again.

If you monitored the desert’s fauna for just a few years at a time you’d miss that dynamic, says Glenda Wardle, an ecologist at the University of Sydney here. “Long-term research in the Simpson Desert has provided fundamental insights into the ecology of outback Australia” and crucial information for protecting endangered species and other natural resources, says Wardle, co-leader of the Simpson Desert Mammal Monitoring project.

But such studies are now slated for the chopping block. A body funded by Australia’s federal government plans to stop funding all 12 sites in Australia’s Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTERN), including the 8000-square-kilometer Simpson Desert site, at the end of this year. In a letter in today’s issue of Science, Wardle and 68 co-authors decry the decision as “totally out of step with international trends and national imperatives.” She and leaders of the other projects are now scrambling to find other sources of funding before their coffers run dry.

LTERN’s demise could have major consequences, supporters say. “In a country like Australia, which is facing huge challenges with climate change, with expanding populations, with major pressures on its water supplies and land area—we’re not going to be able to predict anything about the status of our environmental assets,” says David Lindenmayer, LTERN’s science director, lead signatory of the letter, and an ecologist at the Australian National University in Canberra. Barring an 11th hour reprieve, some sites will surely have to shut down, he predicts. “That’s a catastrophic loss because it means we have no real ability to take a health reading on the country.”

LTERN covers more than 1100 long-term field plots in ecosystems including alpine grasslands, tall wet forests, temperate woodlands, heathlands, tropical savannas, rainforests, and deserts. Some sites are globally unique, including Victoria state’s forests of mountain ash trees (Eucalyptus regnans), the world’s tallest flowering plants. Each of the 12 networks of plots started as discrete university-run projects that in 2012 were gathered under the government’s Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) in Brisbane. But budget cuts and new government guidelines on funding priorities have forced TERN to terminate the AUS$900,000 program, says TERN Director Beryl Morris. TERN will continue to fund a handful of long-term sites that are not part of LTERN, including the Warra tall gum forests of Tasmania.

To illustrate LTERN’s value, scientists rattle off a number of major findings. In 2010, for example, studies centered on Kakadu National Park south of Darwin, Australia, revealed a population collapse of small marsupials and mammals. The cause, says network co-leader Jeremy Russell-Smith of Charles Darwin University in Casuarina, Australia, appears to have been more frequent fires, which created more open ground and allowed feral cats to decimate native species. “People assumed [that ecosystem] was pretty intact,” he says. “That view is totally incorrect, but you need long-term monitoring to show that.”

LTERN’s closure would have international implications, says David Keith, an ecologist at the University of New South Wales here who manages studies at three sites. Of 80 ecological communities listed as threatened by the Australian government, only 24 are monitored, and LTERN studies account for the longest and most reliable data sets. “Their discontinuation will substantially weaken Australia’s … ability to report on progress to meet international targets agreed to under the Convention on Biological Diversity,” he says.

Lindenmayer and others are making a last-ditch bid to find new pots of money to stabilize LTERN—and, if they’re lucky, expand the network to major ecosystem types currently lacking long-term monitoring. “I am hopeful,” says Keith, “that a phoenix will rise from the ashes.”

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the Science Mag and retrieved on 08/11/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


 

Agricultural scientists urge new global crop alliance to secure future food supply

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Farmer Gashu Lema’s son harvests improved variety “Kubsa” wheat


EL BATAN, Mexico (CIMMYT) – At a time when weather patterns are becoming less predictable and population pressures on food supply are increasing, a group of crop scientists are laying the groundwork for an international crop network to systematically tackle threats to global food security.

Research focused on specific crops achieves progressive genetic gains, but scientists need to adopt a more internationally oriented and integrated approach to leverage technology, expertise, and infrastructure with greater efficiency and purpose, said Matthew Reynolds, a distinguished scientist and wheat breeder at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in an opinion piece published this week in the journal Science.

Already 795 million poor people do not get enough food to eat, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). By 2030, the number of people living in poverty could increase between 35 and 122 million in large measure because of the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector, the FAO reports.

“We understand how to make crops more resilient to heat and drought, but we’re at a point where we need to accelerate our work.” said Reynolds, backed by a team of co-authors from the scientific community. “Since these problems are transnational in nature, a more global network could accelerate our efforts while increasing efficiency and helping to avoid duplication.”

Scientists plan to deploy the new Global Crop Improvement Network (GCIN) to take comparative approaches across all major crops and environments to enhance such traits as root access to water using remote sensing, which often requires costly mobile, airborne or satellite technology.

Through successful wheat-specific collaboration, since the early 1960s, the International Wheat Improvement Network (IWIN), part of the CGIAR-affiliated group of agricultural researchers, has made economically efficient and environmentally sound impacts in crop improvement, which serve as a template for the projected success of GCIN.

Scientists within IWIN undertake breeding efforts aimed at 12 different wheat mega-environments, testing new wheat genotypes at 700 field sites in more than 90 countries. Each year they produce some 1,000 high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat lines, which are delivered as international public goods.

A recent study on wheat improvement shows that CGIAR varieties cover about half of the world’s wheat growing area, through IWIN, delivering an economic punch of from $2.2 billion to more than $3 billion a year for resource-poor farmers and consumers.

“The benefit cost ratio of the investment is 100 to 1, even without taking into account the avoided cost of disease pandemics and the land saved from cultivation due to increased yields; economic analysis indicates at least 20 million hectares of the natural ecosystem have been spared the plough,” Reynolds said.

“High transaction costs and instability of crop funding have hamstrung urgently needed research,” he added. “This is senseless in light of the extraordinary return on investment to IWIN which could be transferred to GCIN.”

Through a crop-wide collaboration, international scientists can boost benefits from practical work with national agricultural research systems, improving the value of “in kind contributions,” he said.

Aims include standardizing data and phenotyping techniques to best practices, ensuring that information can be shared and understood worldwide.

This approach will also encourage upstream researchers to venture from working exclusively in controlled facilities to realistic field environments, bringing cutting edge technologies with them, Reynolds said.

Data sharing could lead to more accurate descriptions of environments and experimental treatments. Currently, data is often only available selectively and a network would promote it through open access programs.

The benefits of integrated research through the CGIAR group of agricultural researchers and the FAO are well established, but the network under discussion could enhance and improve information sharing transnationally.

Experimental fields – or field laboratories – which are essential for translating scientific breakthroughs to improved crop yields, could at times benefit from more strategic relocation. Often they are in certain areas due to historical, financial or political reasons, not because of current practical needs, Reynolds explained.

Climate change is expected to lead to overall warmer temperatures and increase the intensity of droughts, floods, and storms, negatively affecting food security and livelihoods. Climate modeling indicates that sea levels will rise and patterns of flooding and drought will change due to glacial melt at high altitudes.

Higher temperatures will affect crop yields and erratic rainfall could affect both yields and quality. For poor people spending most of their income on food, related price hikes could make it much more difficult to cope.

“A more globally oriented, problem-solving research effort will increase the efficiency of global investment in agriculture and help ensure food security,” Reynolds said, adding that public-private partnerships could be harnessed to drive globally coordinated research.

Please read the journal article here:

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/357/6349/359?utm_campaign=toc_sci-mag_2017-07-27&et_rid=34810037&et_cid=1462865

Authors include:

  • Matthew Reynolds, Distinguished Scientist, CIMMYT
  • Ren Wang, Assistant Director General, FAO
  • Saharah Moon Chapotin, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Food Security, USAID
  • H. Tang, President of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
  • Catherine Feuillet, Head of Crop Research, Bayer Crop Science (who just bought Monsanto)
  • A J. Cavalieri, Senior Program Officer (Agriculture Research & Development), Gates Foundation
  • Steve. Visscher, Deputy Chief Executive, BBSRC
  • Philippe Ellul, Senior Science Officer, CGIAR
  • Mark W. Rosegrant, Director of Environment and Production Technology Division, IFPRI
  • Wayne Powell, former Senior Science Officer, CGIAR
  • Martin Kropff, Director General, CIMMYT, and Chair of System Management Board, CGIAR
  • Hans Braun, Director of CIMMYT Global Wheat Program and CRP Wheat
  • Bram Govaerts, Strategy Lead for Sustainable Intensification in Latin America, Latin America Regional Representative and Mexico country Representative at CIMMYT

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, REMOTE OR IN PERSON INTERVIEWS:

Julie Mollins
CIMMYT News Editor and Media Manager
j.mollins@cgiar.org
@jmollins

 


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the CGIAR and retrieved on 07/27/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


 

Using Big Data to Help Combat Malnutrition in Africa

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Source: Farming First, 2017


 

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Dr. Debisi Araba, CIAT

 

In this guest blog for the #SDG2countdown campaign‘s week on SDG2.2: ending malnutrition, Dr. Debisi Araba outlines a new big data initiative designed to detect malnutrition before disaster strikes. Dr. Araba is a member of the Malabo Montpellier Panel, set up to provide evidence and promote dialogue for better outcomes in Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, and serves as Africa Director for the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT.)

Chronic malnutrition affects one in four people in sub-Saharan Africa. This increases the region’s vulnerability during food crises and compromises the continent’s overall development. We know we need to improve the way we respond to food crises to protect African food production systems, farmers, and the people who depend on the food they produce.

Food crisis response

Currently, responses to food crises are reactive, not proactive. Signs of malnutrition may not be apparent until a food crisis erupts, and decision-makers lack the data to combat crises, making response coordination difficult.

There are various forces that influence nutrition and it can be difficult to identify how they converge to cause widespread problems. In addition, most governments and aid organizations use multiple metrics and separate tracking systems to measure malnutrition. With so much data to absorb, it can be easy to miss early indicators of trouble brewing before a crisis kicks in.

This makes it impossible to form proactive food policies and escape the trap of constantly reacting to disruptions rather than getting ahead of hunger. Interventions are also limited to the household or community level and rarely focus on national and regional systems.

How data will help

An innovative new approach to collating and analyzing large sets of data could enable this shift to early action. Through machine learning, computer programs track complex and constantly changing data from multiple sources in order to “learn” from them and make predictions.

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) is applying machine learning technology to search for early signs of potential crop failures, drought, rising food prices, and other factors that can trigger food shortages. Over time, this bespoke system – known as the Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS) – will become “smarter” and more accurate so that data can be used to predict the likelihood of malnutrition threats before they occur, while also suggesting mitigating measures.

NEWS would enable governments, donors, farmers, health care providers, NGOs and food companies to contribute towards and implement more rapid, tailored interventions.

CIAT will coordinate the development of NEWS, to be deployed in collaboration with partners to alert decision-makers to nutrition threats well ahead of a crisis. Initially, CIAT will use NEWS to focus on boosting nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa. By picking up food shortage triggers, the system will give relief agencies, donors and governments information they need to make informed decisions about agricultural policies and programmes.

Ongoing surveillance is expected to provide multiple recommendations for future nutrition interventions. The recommendations can be tailored to the needs of individual countries through national “nutrition dashboards”.  These will further refine insights available through NEWS. The dashboards will be accessible via a secure website that will regularly monitor and post updates on key nutrition and food security indicators.

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Refining NEWS for Africa

CIAT, which leads the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture, has already seen success using big data approaches to tackle agricultural challenges. In 2014, some 170 farmers in Colombia avoided potentially catastrophic losses after CIAT experts used a machine learning algorithm to analyse weather and crop data. It revealed drought on the horizon, and farmers were advised to skip a planting season, saving them more than US$3 million.

We now need to work with partners to track indicators of malnutrition in West, East and Central, and Southern Africa and to create and fully develop NEWS.

The NEWS white paper calls for collaboration between governments, development and relief agencies to find robust methods to track malnutrition indicators. In particular, it urges potential partners who want to harness big data to address fundamental challenges linked to agriculture and nutrition in the developing world, to join CIAT’s effort to create and fully develop the potential of NEWS across Africa.


 


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the Farming First and retrieved on 08/01/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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