Vital Signs is an integrated monitoring system for ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes.
Feeding the growing world population will require an estimated 70-100 percent increase in food production, but agricultural activities are degrading ecosystems and the benefits they provide for people faster now than ever before. There is an urgent need for better data, analytical methods and risk management approaches to guide sustainable agricultural development and ensure healthy and resilient livelihoods and ecosystems.
The Vital Signs monitoring system provides near-real time data and diagnostic tools to inform agricultural development decisions and monitor their outcomes. Vital Signs metrics and indicators will verify that investments to improve food production also support healthy natural systems and robust livelihoods for smallholder farmers. It fills a critical unmet need for integrative, holistic measurements of agriculture, ecosystem services and human well-being. The system will quantify sustainability and provide tools to evaluate risks and trade-offs by pooling multi-scale data into an open-access online dashboard for policy makers, the private sector and the scientific community.
Launched with a ground-breaking grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Conservation International (CI), Vital Signs is co-led by CI, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa and the Earth Institute (EI), Columbia University. It is creating a “gold standard” environmental monitoring system, a global public good. Other donors have already expressed interest in joining the Vital Signs partnership.
The system is initially launching in 5 African regions – Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda and Mozambique – with plans for expansion to other parts of Africa and the globe.
For more information or to invest
About Vital Signs
Learn more about the Vital Signs Monitoring System.
Vital Signs Fact Sheet
Introductory information on the background, leadership and design of the Vital Signs monitoring system.
Vital Signs Global Access Strategy
The Global Access Strategy outlines Vital Signs standards for data sharing, access, authorship, citation, and restrictions of VS data.
SAGCOT: The Measure of a Land
Report with data from the Vital Signs pilot project in Tanzania, presented at the African Green Revolution Forum in September 2012.
Download information about Vital Signs system design and data use.
|Vital Signs Data Use Policy||June 2012||302KB PDF|
|Sampling Frame for the Vital Signs Global Monitoring System||January 2013||1.3MB PDF|
Read reports from Vital Signs workshops and meetings.
|Ethiopia Stakeholders Workshop Report||February 2013||146KB PDF|
|Ghana Stakeholders Workshop Report||December 2012||146KB PDF|
|Vital Signs Human Well-Being and Livelihoods Workshop Report||November 2012||192KB PDF|
|Tanzania Stakeholders Workshop Report||September 2012||127KB PDF|
Vital Signs in the Press
Click below to view the Vital Signs protocols.
Vital Signs Oversight Council
Vital Signs Technical Council
Sara Barbour is the Vital Signs Coordinator, responsible for program management, communications direction and international logistics. She is a graduate of Columbia University, and has previously worked for Hearst Corporation, the Pacific Standard, and as an apprentice on a biodynamic farm. Her blog and writing have appeared in The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.
Kyle DeRosa is the Agriculture and Socioeconomic Coordinator for the Agriculture and Food Security Center of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, where he provides data management, analytics, and visualization for large multisectoral datasets. His experience is in enterprise software and development research. His research interests include the utilization of machine learning and data mining for socioeconomic and agricultural research, with a growing interest in algorithmic game theory.
Mark Musumba, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Research fellow at the Agriculture and Food Security Center of the Earth Institute at Columbia. Mark is an agricultural economist and received both his MS and PhD from Texas A&M University. His research interests are on understanding the implications of human capital mobility and how changes in environmental resources and climate change affect agriculture and human well-being in developing economies.
Patrick Mutuo, PhD, is the Africa Field Director for Vital Signs. His research and management experience spans 15 years, and he specializes in the fields of soil nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, crop modeling, agricultural value chains and multi-sectoral approaches. He has worked in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania and the UK. From 2011 - 2013 he headed the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) office in the DRC, where he also served as Project Coordinator and Soil Scientist, researching Integrated Soil Fertility Management in East, Central and Southern Africa. Dr. Mutuo has also served as the Regional Agriculture Specialist at the Millennium Development Goals Centre in Nairobi, and as the Science Coordinator and Team Leader for the first Millennium Villages Project site in Sauri, Kenya (an initiative of the Earth Institute, Columbia University). Dr. Mutuo holds a BSc degree in Forestry and an MSc degree in Environmental Sciences from Moi University, Kenya, and a PhD in Soil Science from Imperial College, University of London.
Ravic Nijbroek, PhD, is Vital Signs Research Scientist and a Director at the Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Ecosystem Science and Economics at Conservation International. Ravic has an interdisciplineray background in engineering and social science. He was a visiting scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, where he worked on livestock vulnerability to tick-borne disease and also developed a GIS-based crop and livestock decision support system. In recent years he worked on climate change vulnerability of socio-ecological systems in Suriname, Brazil and the Philippines. Ravic has a M.E. in Agricultural and Biological Engineering (precision farming) and a Ph.D. in Human Geography (political ecology). He is a native of Suriname.
Roseline Remans, PhD, is an Associate Research Scientist at the Agriculture and Food Security Center and at the Center for Globalization and Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. Her research focuses on integrated approaches to human nutrition and bridges agriculture, environment and human health in poor-resource settings. Roseline received her PhD in Biosystem Engineering in 2007 from the University of Leuven, in collaboration with CGIAR-CIAT in Colombia and the national soils institute in Cuba. Roseline has working experience in Latin America, East, Central and West Africa, the US and Europe.