World Food Programme predicts famines from space

Bad crops can be predicted from space. Photo: Public Domain

Bad crops can be predicted from space. Photo: Public Domain

Famines seem to appear abruptly when they are in the news, but they are predictable through satellite images.

By Christoph Donauer

Famines in developing countries seem to be unpredictable to industrial countries. They appear and disappear suddenly in the media landscape. Anna Poulsen, CEO of the World Food Programme (WFP) office in Copenhagen wants to correct this view. She states that preventative work of the WFP is disregarded by the media: “We can predict hunger, but we cannot make it into the media with it.”

Therefore, the WFP cooperates with the European Space Agency and uses satellite pictures. Predicting famines is easy with these, says Poulsen: “If the land is brown where green fields are supposed to be, we know that there was not enough rain. And without rain, the farmers have a bad crop and the people suffer from hunger.”

This story is written for an audience in France and could be published in the Science section of http://www.nationalgeographic.fr/ . The European Space Agency is located in Paris which makes it interesting news for French readers.