Project Description

Region of Interest

The Sahelian zone of West Africa is 400 to 800 km wide, and more than 4000 km long. It is one of the very large semi-arid zones of the world, characterized by summer rainfall varying from 100 mm in the north to 600 mm/year in the south. About one quarter of the territory of Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Burkina Faso belongs to this zone and about one third of the population lives there. In this region rainfall is not only scarce but also highly irregular. Dry and wetter periods interchange in an unpredictable manner. In combination with a steadily increasing population pressure and the introduction of more modern agricultural techniques, the ecosystem is periodically overstrained and finally deteriorated. Periods of drought have a direct effect on crop production and food security and on longer term may lead to permanent loss of productive capacity, i.e. to desertification.


Drought cannot be prevented. To mitigate the effects of drought it is necessary to develop flexible response policies and mechanisms in terms of agricultural production systems, environmental protection measures and related decision making. Flexibility, however, implies the need for timely, quantitative and reliable information for decision makers and farmers to act upon. Such information, however, was not, not timely or insufficiently available. The proposed project will to a considerable degree satisfy the need for such information.


The development of the Energy and Water Balance Monitoring System (EWBMS) started already in the early 1980’s, shortly after the introduction of Meteosat. Since 1992 EARS is operating a receiving system and has put an operational EWBMS processing line in place, generating hemispheric temperature, radiation, evapotranspiration and precipitation data fields.

In the 1990’s R&D projects were carried out in the EU framework to investigate and demonstrate the utility of these data for desertification monitoring, crop yield forecasting and river flow forecasting. There was considerable interest in China, where from 1998 on the system was implemented for desert monitoring, drought early warning and crop yield forecasting at three different public institutions. Thereafter, In the period 2004-2009 the system was successfully implemented for Yellow River flow forecasting and in Mongolia for rangeland monitoring.

October 2001, the EWBMS system was presented by EARS on behalf of the Chinese delegation at UNCCD 5th Conference of Parties. The system was well received and considered indispensible for early warning in the UNCCD framework. Several parties, including CILSS, expressed their interest and this is where the idea for the present collaboration emerged. EARS was invited to present the system at the CILSS Council of Ministers in January 2002. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the intention to implement the EWBMS system at the Agrhymet Regional Centre.

Project preparation was confronted with a range of political and institutional events that could not have been foreseen. The project was finally enabled through a grant from the Netherlands Government and started in 2010.

Project Objectives

The objectives of the proposed project are as follows:

  1. Establish a Meteosat Energy and Water Balance Monitoring System (EWBMS) for West Africa
  2. Establish a drought and desertification monitoring sub-system (DMS)
  3. Establish a crop and pasture yield forecasting sub-system (CYFS)
  4. Calibrate, test and validate these systems
  5. Implement dedicated user systems in the member countries
  6. Train experts and end-users in understanding and using the technology

Project Partners

Centre Regional Agrhymet

The Agrhymet Regional Centre was established in 1974. The task of the Centre is to provide regional information in the agro-ecological domain. In this respect the two leading objectives of the Centre are:

  • To contribute to food security and the improvement of agricultural production
  • To assist in improving the management of natural resources in the Sahel region

The Agrhymet Centre is carrying out to major programmes related to education and training of engineers and technicians from the member countries; providing information to decision makers and other actors to allow for more rational decision making on food security and the management of natural resources.

EARS Earth Environment & Monitoring BV

Established in 1977, EARS is one of the oldest and most experienced remote sensing companies in Europe.

The company has developed its own specific technology, of which the Meteosat Energy and Water Balance Monitoring System (EWBMS) is one. This technology is gradually implemented for crop yield forecasting, desertification monitoring and regional water management in Europe, Africa and China.

New and innovative technology is also developed for forest monitoring, remote sensing of photosynthesis and monitoring of natural coal fires. All work is firmly based on published scientific research.