"NASA Harvest Africa Program: Advancing the Use of Earth Observations and Machine Learning for Agriculture Monitoring for Food Security in Africa"
Dr. Catherine Nakalembe, is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences. Her research focuses on remote sensing and machine learning applications in smallholder agriculture, food security, early warning, and disaster assessment. She is the NASA Harvest Africa Program Director, a NASA SERVIR Applied Sciences Team member, and a food security thematic lead. She has received several honors and awards for her work, including the 2022 Golden Jubilee Medal (the highest civilian award of Uganda), the 2020 Africa Food Prize (the preeminent award recognizing an outstanding individual or institution that is leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa) , and a 2019 GEO Individual Excellence Award for her dedication to improving food security in Africa through the enhanced use of Earth observations.
Global food security is predicated on identifying sustainable production systems that can adapt to and mitigate climate change. Regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 60% of the population are smallholder farmers, are particularly vulnerable given challenges related to infrastructure, access to farming inputs and sources of information, and a rapidly changing climate. Assessing (e.g., mapping) and monitoring smallholder agriculture is critical to building sustainable farms that are as productive or even more productive than large-scale farms. Recent advances in Earth observation (EO) and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) offer scalable, affordable methods to quantify, monitor, and analyze risks to the agricultural sector at unprecedented scales. This information can help understand, plan and manage climate risk and offer insights and a quantitative basis for policies toward climate-resilient food systems. In this talk, I will describe open problems for research in AI/ML methods and applications utilizing EO for agriculture. I will provide detailed examples of the utility of methods and products, discuss some pathways from deployment to impact, and include resources to datasets, repositories, and other information to get started. I will also discuss the challenges and gaps in supporting agricultural monitoring in smallholder, low-resource regions.
About the Tufts Nutrition Data Symposium
Dr. Nakalembe is the Opening Keynote for TNDS 2023: Sustainability Now! Action-Oriented Solutions for Food Systems, Nutrition, and Diet. This year marks the 16th Annual Tufts Nutrition Data Symposium, a student-driven event with 2 days of virtual programming including expert panels, workshops, research presentations, featured speakers, and daily keynotes.