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Defence and Space

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Defence and Space

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Defence and Space

Banner Rice Areas of Afghanistan

FAO Uses Airbus Imagery to Estimate Rice

Despite more than 379,100 km² of agricultural land, Afghanistan remains in food deficit. Rice is one of the three main food crop sources in the country. Monitoring rice crops using satellite imagery is therefore essential to ensure sustainable food and feed production for future generations. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Airbus are working together to obtain rice crop area estimation and create rice crop masks.

Rice Areas in Afghanistan


In a desert country such as Afghanistan, food production is highly sensitive to climatic conditions.

For organisations like FAO, assessing the extent of irrigated crops such as rice is critical to calculate food security and anticipate any shortages.

However, determining rice surfaces cannot rely on traditional ground surveys alone, as fields are numerous, often small and scattered across the landscape.

Rice Areas Solutions in Afghanistan

Our solution

FAO developed a crop calendar, outlining the unique pattern of the rice growth cycle.

Based on this calendar, they then gathered satellite imagery over seven provinces, at key dates throughout the rice cycle.
Pléiades and SPOT images were collected before and after the harvest, in order to delineate parcels and establish homogeneous areas:

  • Optimise sampling, minimise ground surveys and maximise efficiency
  • Perform rice classification, with additional time-series based on Sentinel 1, Sentinel 2 and Landsat 8 earlier in the season.

As a result, the rice crop area was successfully estimated with less than a 10% error rate. They even achieved an accuracy of 96% in one particular province.

Benefits Hands holding rice in Afghanistan


The use of our satellite imagery, together with complementary free data sources allowed FAO to substantially reduce production costs of crops statistics, while maintaining the highest quality standards:

  • Increased reliability of the produced statistics
  • Reduced risk for ground surveying
  • Improved cost-efficiency.
Organisations involved

Airbus satellite imagery has been successfully supporting the work of FAO since the launch of SPOT 1 in the late 1980’s. It has helped to define a national agricultural policy, managing food security, dealing with illegal agriculture, optimising irrigation and pest prevention, depending on each local specific need.

Gianluca Franceschini

Technical Coordinator of Geospatial Unit, Climate, Biodiversity, Land & Water Department - UNFAO

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