Preparing for the Inevitable: Monitoring Drought and Other Natural Disasters with GADAS
Persistent dryness in the Horn of Africa has raised red flags for humanitarian aid workers this year. Compounded by ethnic and political instability and consecutive years of drought, food insecurity and the number of severely food insecure people is growing at an alarming rate. In June, according to the UN OCHA Drought Snapshot for the Horn of Africa, the estimated number of severely food insecure people in Ethiopia alone was 7.9 million, and regionally 11.9 million people. Mid-July catastrophic flooding in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Myanmar has led to hundreds of deaths, hundreds of thousands displaced, and millions of people affected.
In these situations, it is critical for humantarian aid organizations to have access to timely and accurate data and tools to quickly assess drought and flooding conditions and track situational changes quickly. One powerful tool that enables this is USDA/FAS' Global Agricultural and Disaster Assessment System (GADAS). GADAS is a free, web-based desktop GIS platform that provides users with access to a vast array of high temporal, real-time data streams from various climate and weather sources including the Pacific Disaster Center, satellite imagery and remotely-sensed political, irrigation and water, elevation and much more data that enables users to quickly assess and monitor conditions on the ground, highlight regional risk posed by natural disasters and spatially model potential disaster impacts.
But GADAS doesn't just provide disaster monitoring tools. The platform includes a variety of built in tools that enable geospatial analysis including geostatistical analysis. Users can upload their own georeferenced data and perform spatial analysis with the data sources available on the platform to refine crop cover masks, focus analysis on areas of greatest need, and quickly generate and share situational reports. Other GADAS tools enable users to perform environmental change detection, generate comparative climatic and satellite-derived vegetation analysis, and pull global agricultural monitoring and commodity forecasting reports with the click of a few buttons. Analysts have the tools at their fingertips to analyze global trends and anticipate change for better planning. With access to all these tools and data, GADAS frees up time for end-users to think about and prepare for the implications of unfolding events rather than spend endless hours creating the raw products from which intelligence or impacts can be gleaned.
While it takes a little time and practice to learn how to use GADAS, users with little to no GIS experience can learn how to use the platform, and the effort is well worth it. Analysis reports completed on GADAS can be easily and quickly shared using the "share" button which enables exporting maps, analysis, and reports as images and/or pdfs. Visit the recorded webinar, "Using the Global Agricultural and Disaster Assessment System (GADAS) for Crop Condition Assessments and Capacity-Building Efforts" for an introduction to GADAS and examples of the many uses of the platform. Stay tuned for upcoming in-person and webinar training events to be announced on Agrilinks.