Chapter 2 of this report offers examples of how the use of remotely sensed data can contribute to human health and welfare. This chapter summarizes workshop discussions regarding opportunities and challenges in the application of remotely sensed data of attributes of the land surface such as land cover, human infrastructure, productivity of vegetation, and seasonality for improving food security and human health.
Workshop participants recognized that environmental and socioeconomic information provided by remote sensing and other sources constitutes only one aspect of effective decision making. The political, economic, and institutional setting defines the framework in which such information can be used. Decision makers need relevant information to make informed decisions that will have significance and impact and also need robust institutional capabilities to be able to support and carry out their decisions. While good information and institutional capabilities are both critical for effective decision making, it is often the lack of the latter that inhibits good decision making from being actualized.
Although substantial donor resources are dedicated to providing food aid, the ability to monitor food availability and predict food shortages is of equal—or arguably greater—importance in promoting food security. Food security issues can be divided into three general elements: food availability, accessibility, and utilization. Integrating remote sensing information into decision-making networks can improve the capacity of decision makers to make effective choices in each of these domains. Remote sensing technologies provide seasonal information that is cheaper, more timely, and available over larger areas than traditional sources of information on food accessibility. Greater investments in remote sensing infrastructures could aid policy makers in forecasting future food availability and accessibility and to plan appropriately, perhaps by instituting multigenerational development efforts.
The production and delivery of food resources to populations in need involves interactions between a complex array of social and environmental factors. Decision makers must understand where food shortages are likely to occur and be aware of the location and accessibility of surplus food resources. Remote sensing identifies vulnerabilities based on environmental variability and can enhance land-based environmental data. Incorporating information from remotely sensed data, in combination with administrative and agricultural records over long periods of time, can allow decision makers to identify areas more statistically prone to food crises and to identify the physical accessibility and quality of needed resources. In order to lessen the severity of food crises, decision makers