Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Geospatial Intelligence for Food Security and National Security

The Center for Strategic and International Studies recently published a report on geospatial data, global food security and political stabilities. In an increasingly dynamic world, information, as always, is power. This report explores how understanding global food security can be enhanced by geospatial data compilations and how this interphase can help track and deal with political instability with relevant implications for national security. Given the pressing problems that can emanate from food insecurity including conflict, health hazards and human suffering, it is critical that we are strategic about how to track inventories and critical aspects of the hotspots (e.g., currently in Syria, Sahel, Horn of Africa or DRC) in the world for agricultural productivity, food supply and food trade. Additionally, it is critical to understand trends in food demand and supply as both natural and human disturbances occur. Evidence has concluded, that where hunger and poverty persist, instability and resentment grow, threatening national and regional security. The report outlines some food insecurity drivers such as sanctions, pestilences, natural phenomena, migration, urbanization, etc. For instance, urbanization and changes in youth trajectories across countries, coupled with governance challenges in many countries, compound emerging disturbances and stimulate complex emergencies that are often intractable. 

The development of remote sensing by sensors that are near ground, airborne or space borne has resulted in massive amounts of data that are a source for repeatable, consistent, comprehensive and objective measures of important attributes in agriculture, natural resources and the economy in general. But the difficulty of analyzing and correctly interpreting data due to the absence of proper translation tools or platforms that distill or ingest data to produce policy-relevant and actionable products for public and private investors could limit the utility of such abundant data for operational day-to-day use.

Generation, processing and creative use of such data and platforms to strengthen resilience needs to be accompanied by a focus on enhancing food security to boost economic growth through the following recommendations identified by the authors:
  1. Popularize geospatial data products to encourage more sharing of information that expounds on the national security implications of food insecurity
  2. Establish a “floor” of the basic quality geospatial data compiled for public and private actors
  3. Enhance public-private collaboration
  4. Explore deeper into linkages between political instability and food insecurity
Through geospatial intelligence, shaping and stabilizing activities can be designed in a customized way to promote prosperity and peace. The application of crowd sourcing in combination with big data analyses promises to be a transformative avenue towards a healthier, wealthier world.