Molly Brown of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD has created a new method to anticipate food shortages brought on by drought. The model uses data from satellite remote sensing of crop growth and food prices, and could improve the ability for government and humanitarian aid officials to plan and respond to drought-induced food price increases.
Until now, officials have studied the after-effects of floods or droughts that might affect crop production as their best means of warning of a coming food security crisis. Agricultural economists often use a mathematical formula and data on crop yield, a range of market prices, and other variables to develop a price model that estimates what food prices may be in the marketplace. Brown combined satellite data and climate variables with the price model to create maps of millet prices covering a complete area. With these maps, decision-makers can predict price changes, food availability, and food insecurity.
According to Brown, "This model can help officials better understand the role that climate plays in food availability and pricing, and also in famine warning when applied to a real-time planning effort." The model can be used in any region of the world where there are seasonal climate factors that can contribute to local food production crises.