Trainings for journalists: how can satellite technologies help to control land use?

The trainings “Open Data and Satellite Technologies: opportunities for journalists working with agrarian and land topics”, organized by the World Bank and the EU Program “Supporting Transparent Land Governance in Ukraine” on May 27 and 29, 2019, were attended by about 40 journalists from central and regional mass media and NGO representatives.

Most of the representatives from Ukrainian media were for the first time able to see the possibilities of land remote sensing – using satellite imagery to monitor how agricultural land is used, to inspect fields, respond to emergency situations (fires, floods, climatic abnormalities), track climate change trends, etc.

In particular, in her presentation Natalia Kussul, Deputy Director of Space Research Institute, showed that the discrepancy of the cultivated land area between statistics and satellite data is almost 2 million hectares in Ukraine, and due to the climatic changes there are already land areas which are cropped twice a year.

N. Kussul pointed out that cosmic images provide a large amount of diverse information, both static and dynamic (under relevant observations), for example, on deforestation, areas of various crops, actual use of state land, commercial development of conservation areas, patterns of urban agglomeration growth, air condition, state of irrigation systems, localization of fires, winterkill areas, etc., as well as predict crop yields.

The biggest discovery for the training participants was that, on the one hand, this technology opens so many possibilities and, on the other hand, it is easily available – cosmic imagery are updated every 5-6 days and can be found free of charge in open access. Money is needed only for their analysis. In this connection, one of the main questions from the training participants was whether public authorities (in particular, environmental inspection) are aware of the possibilities of satellite monitoring, and if so, why they do not use it?

At present, only commercial institutions are using satellite monitoring in Ukraine. For the needs of public institutions, it was first piloted within the World Bank and the EU Program “Supporting Transparent Land Governance in Ukraine” to analyze the situation in Kyiv, Mykolaiv, and Lviv oblasts. The methodology for using this technology is being developed to be offered to the government.

The use of open data for independent analysis of land relations and agrarian sector in Ukraine was another issue addressed by the training. The participants were informed on several open official databases, in particular, Land Governance Monitoring, as the most comprehensive land governance database created under the World Bank project. With its 65 theme-based indicators, it can be used to prepare publications, diagrams and infographics.
The media representatives were informed on key directions for improving the efficiency of land governance in Ukraine, as a pre-condition for economic growth. These include an operational land market, an efficient Land Cadastre and Registry of Property Rights for Real Estate, transparent and improved service delivery, upgraded management of state land, and decentralization.