Environmental Monitoring Systems

By 2050, Earth will be home to more than 9 billion people and by the century’s end that number will be nearly 11 billion people.  

 

To meet the food security and nutrition challenges of today — with nearly 1 billion chronically hungry people worldwide — and tomorrow, will require an estimated 70 -100% increase in food production. Millions of small-holder farmers will need to play an important role in meeting this need, particularly across Africa.

 

Unfortunately, agricultural activities are degrading ecosystems – and the benefits they provide for people – faster now than ever before. We need to find new ways of growing food that can simultaneously deliver food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity.

 

To achieve this farmers need better information to help them increase agricultural productivity while avoiding unintended consequences for soil quality, water availability, and other benefits from healthy ecosystems. There is an urgent need for better data and risk management approaches to guide sustainable agricultural development and ensure healthy and resilient ecosystems and livelihoods.

 

Technology and information have been essential to the transformation of every imaginable sector of human endeavor. Yet today, in the face of some of the world’s most pressing development challenges, the right data and technology, applied at the right scales, has not been available. Vital Signs is synthesizing vast amounts of data into meaningful insights for policy makers and farmers for the first time.

 

Creating the “gold standard” of Environmental Monitoring Systems

 

By providing near real-time, georeferenced data and diagnostic tools to guide agricultural decisions and monitor outcomes, Vital Signs fills a critical unmet need for integrative measurements of agriculture, ecosystem services and human well-being.

Importantly, these measurements are made at all scales that are relevant to agricultural decision making—from a household to a farm, a landscape, and at the scale of a nation, a continent, and the globe.

 

Vital Signs was designed in Tanzania and demonstrated in Tanzania, Ghana and Rwanda with initial funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. The monitoring system is now poised to scale to ten countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in the next two years.

 

Vital Signs is creating the “gold standard” of environmental monitoring systems and a global public good that is open and accessible to everyone.

 

Sources:
FAO (2013), FAOSTAT.
UNEP, UNDP, the World Bank Group, and WRI (2013), World Resources Report: Creating a sustainable food future.