Mapping Africa is an ongoing project that focuses on applying advanced Earth Observation techniques to develop improved maps of agriculture across the continent, with a particular emphasis on crop field boundaries. Mapping Africa is conducted in collaboration with a number of other organizations, such as Farmerline, Spatial Collective, the University of California Santa Barbara, and has received support from Omidyar Network Property Rights Initiative (now Place), NASA, NSF, and IIASA.

Unlocking the power of NISAR for mapping the Amazon’s forest-agriculture interface, led by Jet Propulsion Lab and funded by NASA SERVIR (2023-2025), aims to develop methods based on the soon-to-be launched NISAR sensor to map oil palm and cacao plantations in Peru and Brazil.

A region-wide, multi-year set of crop field boundary labels for Sub-Saharan Africa, with Farmerline and Spatial Collective for the Lacuna Fund (2022-2024), is a project that aims to develop an Africa-wide set of labels for training and evaluating field boundary mapping models. 

CNH2-L: Feedbacks between Urban Food Security and Rural Agricultural Systems explores the connections between urban food security and rural agricultural production in southern Africa, focusing on how urban food demand drives changes in surrounding agricultural systems, and how climatic variability in those systems in turn impacts urban food security. Funded by the National Science Foundation, 2019-2024. 

Combining spatially-explicit simulation of animal movement and Earth Observation to reconcile agriculture and wildlife conservation. Funded by the Future Investigators in NASA Earth System Science and Space Technology Fellowship (2020-2023), AIRG’s first PhD graduate Dr. Lei Song used advanced Earth Observation methods, species distribution models, and tradeoff analyses to balance elephant conservation requirements with agricultural needs in Tanzania.


Unlocking the power of active remote sensing for ecosystem services modeling in the Amazon’s forest-agriculture interface. Led by Jet Propulsion Lab, this project developed methods based on synthetic aperture radar that can be used to detect oil palm and cacao plantations, which are major drivers of tropical deforestation. Funded by NASA SERVIR, 2019-2022.

Creating open agricultural maps and groundtruth data to better deliver farm extension services. This project was undertaken between 2020-2022 with Farmerline as project leads, formed part of the broader Crop Analytics at Scale initiative led by Tetratech for the Gates Foundation. scalable, sustainable model for generating open agricultural maps and ground-truth data. The goal of the two phases of the project, which focused on Ghana and Tanzania, was to combine novel ground-truthing methods with advanced cropland and crop type mapping techniques to develop scalable and transferable methods for mapping agricultural systems, in order to develop improved agricultural extension services.

Hazards SEES: Understanding cross-Scale interactions of trade and food policy to improve resilience to drought risk in Zambia examines the interactions between drought risk, crop production, trade and policy and their impacts on food security in Zambia, with the aim of improving existing early warning systems for famine. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Natural Hazards, 2015-2020. 

Water Sustainability Climate, Impacts of agricultural decision making and adaptive management on food security. This project aimed to better understand how dryland farmers adapt to within-season climate variability and how these adaptations impact their resilience to climate variability and change, today and in the future. The project did this by bringing together cellphone adoption with research in data science, crop prediction, and environmental and social monitoring. Funded by the National Science Foundation, 2014-2019.

Integrating crowdsourcing, in situ sensing, and spaceborne observation to understand the sustainability of smallholder agriculture in African wet savannas: used a novel approach to capture smallholder farmers’ fields and yields in sub-Saharan Africa by integrating in situ environmental sensing, Earth Observing satellites, and crowd-sourcing. The project aimed to i) identify patterns of crop land change on smallholder farms, ii) identify landscape-scale trends in productivity on smallholder farmers, and iii) better understand the relationships between changes in crop productivity, climate variability, and land cover. Funded by the NASA New Investigator Program in Earth Science, 2015-2019.

Understanding the roles of climate and economics in shaping land use: South African crop distributions before and after agricultural subsidies (Michael Oppenheimer)

The Agricultural Synergies Project was a collaboration between various research institutions with the objective of developing guidance for countries in the developing world to increase food production, while simultaneously reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

Agriculture, Wildlife, Water and Changing Land Use in Sub-Saharan Africa. This project sought to better balance the competing interests of biodiversity, water resources, agriculture, and carbon conservation, and how climate change affects this balance, specifically through land use modeling, crop simulation modeling and remote sensing, and novel land cover mapping techniques. Funded by the Princeton Environmental Institute Grand Challenges Grant, 2012-2015. 

The interactions between climate change, agriculture, and biodiversity in South Africa. This research examined the impacts on biodiversity as a result of human adaptation to climate change, by examining the interactions between biodiversity, agriculture, and climate change in South Africa using process-based and bioclimatic envelope models. Funded by the Princeton Environmental Institute, 2007-2009.

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