Project Details


Satellite images help find pasture for pastoralists


Project URL:
Project Twitter: @PCIGlobal

Organisations Involved PCI (@PCIGlobal)
Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Sector, Ethiopian Ministry for Agriculture
Google (@google)
USAID (@usaid)
World Food Programme

  • Economic Empowerment
  • Health
  • Safety & Security
  • Geolocation
  • Internet
  • Mobile

When Chris Bessenecker from Project Concern International (PCI) was dispatched to Ethiopia to respond to a drought, he met a pastoralist called Mamedo Nur-Hassen. He asked him why he was in such an arid spot, and Mamedo replied that he had just walked for 14 days because he was told he would find pasture there. Instead, he found stones and sand. His animals were likely to die, and he was going to lose his livelihood. 

Mamedo is one of 200 million pastoralists in Africa who seek pasture for their herds using a combination of word of mouth, scouts and knowledge of local terrains – methods that are increasingly unreliable because of climate change, which can lead to droughts. Over 10.2 million people need emergency food assistance as a result of Ethiopia’s current drought. 

Bessenecker wanted to modernise pastoralists’ search for land, which led to PCI’s project SAPARM (Satellite-Assisted Pastoral Resource Management) in partnership with USAID and the World Food Programme. Through SAPARM, PCI is able to share maps featuring satellite images of vegetation cover with pastoral clan leaders every 10 days. 

The maps only include land that has been identified by local communities, so that no conflict arises between clans. SAPARM also uses early warning channels that have been set up in cooperation with the Ethiopian government to identify drought-affected people.

Since SAPARM’s launch in 2013, over 80% of participating pastoralists like Mamedo use the maps, and more than half said that it was their most important source of information. PCI has plans to scale the project, and wants to develop a smartphone app by 2020, when smartphone use is set to replace mobile phones across Africa. USAID recently awarded PCI $1.3 million to expand the SAPARM programme, and Google is also partnering on the initiative with $750,000. To find out more, visit

Image courtesy of Stefan Gara

Last updated: 10th of August, 2016

Cookies on the Social Tech Guide

Social Tech Guide uses cookies to provide you with an enhanced user experience. To remove this message, please click continue.

Continue Learn more