World Environment Day 2020

Today is UN World Environment Day 2020 and this year’s theme is biodiversity. Recent events, from forest fires across Brazil and Australia, to locust infestations in East Africa demonstrate the symbiosis of nature and human existence, making this topic especially timely.

Hosted by Colombia this year, World Environment Day has been celebrated every year on 5 June since 1974. It serves as a powerful advocacy tool to engage governments, businesses and individuals on pressing environmental issues.

A key challenge for the agriculture sector is providing sufficient quantities of nutritious food to a growing world population, while at the same time reducing the environmental impact and preserving natural resources for future generations.

Earlier this year, GODAN and The University of Nottingham’s Future Food Beacon signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The partnership allows researchers to connect with partners who can accelerate the impact and uptake of innovations, knowledge, and data, to sustainably improve livelihoods for smallholder farmers and their families. The agreement sees the two entities pledging to work together to maximise the impact of the Beacon’s projects, aimed at tackling a range of emerging issues across the food system - from mapping micronutrient deficiency to utilising computer technology to improve crop management.

Several GODAN partners, including the Group on Earth Observations have contributed to the Earth School initiative.

The Future Food Beacon is undertaking a range of projects that will benefit from partnering with GODAN, including: the Geonutrition programme to improve estimates of micronutrient deficiency risks in Ethiopia and South Asia, the Conversion Agriculture project in Africa to better understand soil and water retention to help improve farm practice and soil management, and Digital Agriculture to develop technologies for monitoring crops.

Agriculture can have both positive and negative impacts on the environment. While negative agricultural practices can cause pollution and degeneration of soil, air, and water; agriculture can also have positive impacts, for instance trapping greenhouse gases in soil or plants, or mitigating flood risks. Agriculture accounts for the major share of human use of land. Pasture and crops alone take up over 40 percent of the earth's land area. Over two-thirds of human water use is for agriculture.

GODAN and its Partners are committed to shaping a more sustainable, transparent and efficient agricultural sector through use of open data and creation of open data policy. They are collectively involved in numerous projects and endeavours aimed at fostering biodiversity and delivering sustainable food and nutritional security through sustainable agricultural practices.

In the spirit of World Environment Day, it is hard to ignore the important role of Earth observations for understanding and protecting our planet and our shared future. GODAN Partners and collaborators, the Group on Earth Observations have been closely involved in the creation of the Earth School Initiative, a series of lessons - or “Quests” - designed to engage young people and teach them about the challenges facing our planet and environment.