Swiss funded satellite technology generates big impact in rice monitoring

Local news, 26.05.2017

Switzerland has funded pilot phase (2012-2015) and the scale up phase (2015-2017) the RIICE project in Vietnam as part of its global support to several rice producing countries. The concept of the project is to use high quality, free of charge satellite data that has been recently made available internationally for the monitoring of rice production, natural disasters (notebly floods and droughts). After the pilot phase in 2 provinces, the concept has been proved to work perfectly in providing a cost-effective way of providing accurate, unbiased and timely data. In the scale up phase, the project is implemented in 8 provinces in the Red river Delta and 2 other ones in the Mekong Delta.

MARD expreesed its willingness to continue the project and expand to cover other major rice producing provinces as well.

RIICE project workshop.

When the partners from academia, ministry and Swiss Embassy met on May 26, 2017 to conclude a 5-year project for a satellite-based rice information system for Vietnam, a Sentinel satellite had just passed over the Red River and Mekong deltas to take pictures of the rice growth status. What started as the RIICE project (Remote sensing-based Information and Insurance for Crops in Emerging Economies) has become a mature monitoring system about to be used in crop insurance and other applications.

The small donor’s investment has generated big impact, a participant to the meeting noted.

RIICE parties use the software Mapscape developed by sarmap, a Swiss company, to process satellite data and produce rice area map, phenological maps (showing rice growth stages). The benefit of this is to take advantage of high quality satellite imagery that are provided free of charge. In the past, the high cost of satellite data used to be one of the biggest challenges for a wide-spread use.

This data and other data such as weather and cultivation practice are then fed into ORYZA, a crop model developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to produce yield data. The model has been developed and continuously improved over the last 20 years. Another advantage is that most rice varieties grown in Vietnam are in one or another way provided by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

This gives RIICE-generated data a very high level of accuracy.

Over the last 2 years RIICE has monitored 8 provinces in the Red River Delta and 2 provinces in the Mekong Delta covering an area of 1.9 million ha, including an average 860,000 ha rice area each season. In the summer-autumn season of 2016 RIICE started to monitor the other 11 provinces in the Mekong Delta covering the 2 biggest rice-producing regions of Vietnam bringing the monitored area to 5.9 million ha, including 1.9 million ha of rice area.

The results are much appreciated by various stakeholders, including various departments under Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, provincial departments of agriculture and rural development, the General Statistical Office, the Directorate for National Reserves, insurance companies, etc. Lastly, the project partners—the National Institute for Agriculture Planning and Projection, and Can Tho University—have acquired the technical skills to operate the project independently.

The insurance industry, notably Bao Minh, Bao Viet and Swiss Re have undertaken a strict technical review and concluded that RIICE-generated data is good enough for using as input for insurance product pricing and loss assessment.

Beside Vietnam, RIICE is implemented in a few other countries in the regions also, including Cambodia, Thailand, and India. Vietnam is the only country where RIICE can produce data at commune level while keeping the accuracy level at the region 92-94%, a very high standard in the industry.

All speakers at the workshop on May 26, 2017 highly appreciated the result of the project citing the efficient use of donor’s funding amongst others, and they all called for the continuation of the project considering its considerable impact. Switzerland also expressed its willingness to continue supporting the project with some funding once the government takes over the ownership.