Conservation Agriculture in Malawi Using Remote Sensing


Can remote sensing be used to assess smallholder farmer compliance with conservation agriculture practices.


Malawi faces significant challenges in meeting its future food security needs because there is little scope for increasing production by simply expanding the area under cultivation. One potential alternative for sustainably intensifying agricultural production is by means of conservation agriculture (CA), which improves soil quality through a suite of farming practices that reduce soil disturbance, increase soil cover via retained crop residues, and increase crop diversification.


ProvEye has carried out remote sensing analysis of conservation agriculture practices in the Shire River Basin of Malawi in collaboration with Prof. Andrew Bell and his team from New York University and colleagues from the International Food Policy Research Institute. Here we built a tool that can detect the three principal types of conservation agriculture practised in the region using high-resolution multispectral satellite imagery to an accuracy of 88%. The tool used machine learning to detect subtle patterns in the imagery that was indicative of conversation agriculture activities on the ground. Such a tool can assist local extension workers, government and NGO’s in advising farmers and providing them with financial incentives for the delivery of various ecosystem services while reducing monitoring and enforcement costs.

This work has been kindly funded by USAID’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab

Further information can be found on: