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Applied GeoSolutions Uses Satellite Imagery to Understand Conflict-Driven Food Security in Myanmar

Rakhine State, Myanmar study region where conflict has amplified risks of food security and created additional challenges to assess and monitor crop production across the patchy landscape.

Recent conflict along the border of Bangladesh and Myanmar has amplified a food security crisis and access to the region remains challenging. A new article in the journal Land (Special Issue Agricultural Land Abandonment: Patterns, Drivers and Consequences) titled "Assessing Conflict Driven Food Security in Rakhine, Myanmar with Multisource Imagery" by NASA Harvest partners at Applied GeoSolutions - Xiaodong Huang, Beth Ziniti and Nathan Torbick - highlights their approach of utilizing moderate-resolution satellite remote sensing to complement more traditional food insecurity hot spot assessment across Rakhine, Myanmar. 

Conflict creates unique signals that can affect food security but are not agroclimatologically driven. In order to take this into account, time series radar and optical data cubes were built and used to assess for deviations across space and time for rice paddy production areas based on established techniques. Ultimately, the Sentinel-1 radar was more helpful compared to fused Landsat-7 and -8 and Sentinel-2 data cubes that were substantially impacted by cloud cover during key growth stages. Anecdotal reporting, very high resolution (VHR) imagery, and expert knowledge were used to support operational analyses routines in order to characterize rice into failed, abandoned, and cultivated classes across 2016 to 2018 seasons. High accuracy of 86.5-91% was found for the use of co-timed VHR imagery in 2016-2018. Nearly one-third of rice production was characterized as failed or abandoned in any given year. Qualitative analyses showed paddy failure was often adjacent to conflict events. The moderate-resolution imagery and automated routines offer complementing metrics that can be used to help guide food security assessments. In regions where climate change, migration, and conflict coincide, decision support tools will need to evolve and continue to integrate human perspectives.

News Date
Jun 18, 2019