RAPP Newsletter 6 – July 2017

Dear RAPP colleagues,

We are pleased to present our Newsletter #6 of GEOGLAM RAPP (www.geo-rapp.org) to keep you updated about our activities! At the beginning of the second semester, the main highlights for RAPP include:  

  • Community of practice:
    • NEW coordinator from (SANSA),
    • RAPP workshop in Frascati: outcomes
    • International meetings where RAPP was represented: ISRSE (South Africa, May), I-BEC meeting (Greece), GEOGLAM IT meeting (Rome, June)
  • RAPP Map: official launch, updates and next steps planned
  • National Pilot sites – new country: KENYA
  • RAPP and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Other activities have kept us busy or that we look forward to see happening:

  • Vegetation cover anomaly product: latest
  • Communication and other key events for RAPP

Community-of-Practice and workshops 

NEW co-lead for RAPP – SANSA

It is with great pleasure that we welcome Dr Clement Adjorlolo from SANSA (South African National Space Agency) as a NEW co-lead to help us at CSIRO (Australia) to coordinate  GEOGLAM RAPP. Clemtn offered his support at our latest workshop in Frascati, and we are now working together to better shape the future of RAPP (including design of a workplan).

 A few words from him: “As a Principal Scientist with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), I have a wide interest in the applications of Earth observation technologies for long-term monitoring and assessment of natural resources in South Africa and beyond. With personal invitations from the GEOGLAM RAPP Coordinating Team, I had opportunities to participate in annual meetings of the RAPP community of practice since the 2014 workshop in Paris. The past four RAPP workshops held in Paris (France), São Paulo (Brazil), Tshwane (South Africa) and Frascati (Italy) provided exciting platform for me to report back or share insights on several national and regional initiatives in the Southern African region that can contribute significantly to the GEO’s GEOGLAM RAPP initiative. The objectives of the RAPP are well aligned to natural resources management strategic goals in South Africa and elsewhere in our region. The progress made by the RAPP core team has been a significant milestone and presents the first-hand opportunity for key stakeholders and partners to support and build on this developing initiative. At the recent RAPP Workshop in Frascati, I have elected to formally support the RAPP coordination and looking forward to making a contribution.”

Many thanks again Clement, we look forward to working closer with you to keep developing RAPP!

2017 RAPP international workshop in Italy

ESRIN, Frascati, 16-17 May 2017

Our 5th international RAPP workshop took place in Italy and was very successful. ESA (the European Space Agency) hosted us at ESRIN, ESA’s Earth Observation center, in Frascati (Itlay), and we are again very thankful for their hospitality and support with the logistics. More than 20 organisations (space agencies, universities, research centers, international organisations…) from all over the world were represented, and ~30 people attended the meeting.

The workshop was a great opportunity to gather our RAPP community, meet and welcome new collaborators, and engage with new partners to pursue our efforts and improve our global rangelands monitoring system.

Following the presentations, the audience brought interesting ideas to the table, the discussions sessions were very productive, and other informal (last but not least) talks also took place during the breaks over these two days.

More information (including most the presentations) are available on our website, so feel free to check them out!

We thank again ESA for their fantastic support and welcome in Frascati, and all the participants who contributed to make this event a success. We are now thinking of the options we have for next year’s event! If your organisation is interested to host us, please do let us know as well!

Other international meetings (with a RAPP representation)

  • ISRSE (South Africa, May)

The 37th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE-37) took place in Tshwane, South Africa in May 2017. The theme was “Earth Observation for Development and Adaptation to a Changing World”. The event was the second time in this millennium that the African continent hosted ISRSE. It coincided with the implementation of the recently adopted African Space Policy and Strategy, as well as rapid development in African space science and technology programmes.

Several key RAPP members gave talks about rangelands, remote sensing-based monitoring methods and the importance of such EO-based processes to help policy-makers. The event was also an opportunity to highlight the strong linkages with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) especially related to goal 15.3.1 on land degradation: the first plenary provided a global oversight of the programmes by various space agencies in addressing the UN SDGs. This session proved informative and inspiring to delegates as they were taken through the extensive investment by space programmes to address local and global societal challenges.

  • i-Bec meeting (Greece, June)

GEOGLAM RAPP was present during the 1st Round table on the implementation of the UN SDGs in the Balkan Peninsula, as part of the i-Bec initiative. The meeting engaged a critical mass of Earth Observation stakeholders along the complete value chain, including government officials, international research organizations [NASA, CEOS, GEO, CSIRO, ESA], and the industrial sector, with participants representing the entire region. During the meeting the need to leverage EO services was identified, and so as to encourage data integration into an agriculture-oriented sub-regional GEOSS application as a pathway for relevant national organizations and as an interface for GEOGLAM (including RAPP) in the region. The focal points established by the GEO-CRADLE project could act as technology brokers and advisers to promote sustainable and modernized agriculture, and support the achievement of the relevant Sustainable Development Goals in the region.

  • GEOGLAM Implementation Team meeting (Rome, June)

The GEOGLAM Implementation Team got together (J. Guerschman as RAPP project leader, CSIRO, attended the meeting) in Rome from June 19th to 21st to review progress of the initiative to date and revised program priorities phase 2 (2017-2022).

The main points of discussion included:

  • Shift from data availability to processing and managing large data volumes as the major constraint in the use of EO for agriculture identified;
  • Increasing interest from the private sector to provide agricultural monitoring services based on cloud-based data availability;
  • Efforts need to be made to: i) ensure the next generation of sensors continue to meet the growing needs for agricultural monitoring, and ii) encourage more countries (other than the US and Europe) to join in the free and open sharing of satellite data;
  • GEOGLAM will continue to represent the observation needs of the CoP to CEOS, with an emphasis on next- generation systems for operational agricultural monitoring;
  • The two Crop Monitors (AMIS and CM4EW) continue to increase the visibility of GEOGLAM and the use of EO in agricultural monitoring;
  • Further effort is required to speed up the transfer of R&D to operational implementation;
  • Need to further explore the role of GEOGLAM in contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs)

Feel free to let us know if you are aware of a workshop/conference where RAPP should be present in the next few months!

RAPP Map: official launch, updates and next steps planned


The GEOGLAM RAPP Map is a tool providing an interactive way to visualise and interrogate global and regional data on rangeland and pasture condition, climate and livestock statistics. The global vegetation cover layers in GEOGLAM RAPP Map (derived from the MODIS sensor, at 500 meter resolution) have been updated to March 2017. We are currently implementing the vegetation cover and NDVI layers with MODIS data collection 6 and once completed the updates will maintain these layers up to date with a latency of 1-2 weeks.

The GEOGLAM RAPP Map now includes a customisation with more detailed layers for Australia. You can check a preview here in http://map.geo-rapp.org/#australia. Additional layers include detailed land use/land cover, vegetation cover time series at 30 meter resolution and statistical and land management region boundaries.

RAPP Map #Australia -Landsat product - Seasonal Fractional Cover, Liveringa (Western Australia Station)

RAPP Map #Australia -Landsat product –
Seasonal Fractional Cover, Liveringa (Western Australia Station)

These layers come from a series of sources including Geoscience Australia, the Joint Remote Sensing Research Program, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and AusCover among others.

Your inputs are still welcome, so please send any comments today to Dr Juan Guerschman!


National Pilot sites: KENYA, a new country to join RAPP

We were glad to welcome another research team from ILRI  (International Livestock Research Institute, based in Kenya) in Frascati, as they were interested to collaborate more, especially since their product IBLI (Index-Based Livestock Insurance) is based on satellite data.

Kenya has now become another RAPP pilot country, thanks to ILRI and one of its researchers, Dr Francesco Fava, who proposed a pilot site (Kapiti Farm) to contribute to the global validation work for RAPP.

“The International Livestock Research Institute, a CGIAR Research Centre, is glad to join the RAPP initiative with a new pilot site in the semi-arid lands of Kenya, the Kapiti Ranch. Kapiti is the first RAPP pilot site in East Africa and is representative of typical pastoral environments of the region. By joining the RAPP community we wish to contribute to grow the scientific knowledge on global rangeland ecological dynamics and to improve EO-based models for rangeland assessment and monitoring. We wish also to develop more targeted models for the East African/Sahelian rangelands and livestock systems to help the highly vulnerable pastoral populations of the region better coping with environmental changes, ultimately preventing food insecurity and reducing poverty. To find more info and share ideas visit the page on RAPP website and contact us.”

Vegetation Cover Anomaly

The monthly vegetation cover anomaly product can also be viewed on its own, and downloaded here.

The latest map of June 2017 has just been published here: it still shows negative anomalies in East Africa, but a bit less critical than the previous months. Our new pilot site contacts in Kenya will help us validate our satellite-based product.

Global Fractional Cover Anomaly_June 2017 (MODIS data since 2001)

Behind the scenes of RAPP

RAPP and the UN SDGs

Since GEO fully supports the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN SDGs), the global initiative GEOGLAM is consequently committed to achieve and support the monitoring of some relevant indicators to help countries reaching their own targets, especially related to Goal 2 (“zero hunger”, food security) and Goal 13 (“Climate action”).

GEOGLAM RAPP, the rangelands component, is well positioned to focus on Goal 15 (“Life on land”), and in particular on land degradation by offering unique and complementary contributions to measure the indicator 15.3.1 “Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area”.  We are starting to collaborate more with statistical offices and UN custodian agencies (FAO, UNCCD, UNEP…) to see where EO satellite data could be useful in the methods to monitor indicators.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has commissioned CSIRO to work on the development of methodologies and “Good Practice Guidance” for this indicator of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. UNCCD tapped into CSIRO to coordinate global inputs (including TERN AusCover’s remote sensing expertise) and come up with practical ways to monitor three, more quantitative sub-indicators at national to global scales, and derive the spatial extent and percentage of land that’s degraded. These sub-indicators are: 1) land cover and land cover change, 2) land productivity, and 3) carbon stocks, above and below ground. The report is now being finalized and will be delivered to the UNCCD as a reference “Good practice guidance”, and maybe then used as a template for other indicators.


Besides regular communications with our key partners, RAPP communicates through the website which is regularly updated with news, events and information on RAPP pilot sites. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@geoglamRAPP) to get various news and products, such as the monthly Vegetation Cover anomaly!

Next key events that may be of interest to you…

Thank you all for being part of our RAPP community, and to many of you who are already enjoying the northern summer already, we hope you didn’t miss this refreshing image of a historic ice break captured by Sentinel-1B!

Larsen C breaks – Sentinel-1B image (12 July 2017) – ESA (http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/07/Larsen_C_breaks)