Message from Director

Competing with Nature in Survival Skills to Out-Innovate Severe Droughts

Since the beginning of this century, wide-area, long-lasting droughts have been reported frequently from all over the world. The Millennium Drought hit Australia from 2001 to 2009, costing the government a direct financial support of 4.4 billion AUD to the farmers. Severe droughts occurred continuously for four years from 2010 to 2013 in Somalia, widely known as the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel, also a part of Africa, seriously affecting 31 million people. California, too, had to endure severe droughts year after year from 2011 to 2017. Among them, the one in 2014 is considered as the worst drought ever in the area in 1,200 years, resulting in economic losses of 2.2 million dollars in total. Northeast Brazil is another area that experienced serious droughts from 2012 to 2017, which caused devastating agricultural damage and unstable electric power supplies.

Natural vegetation survives long, severe droughts by changing its traits. The analysis of the Millennium Drought using satellite-based visible-infrared and microwave remote sensing and an echo-hydrological model shows that, although the vegetation biomass decreased year by year, the greenness did not change very much during the droughts. This resilience of greenness to droughts is explained as a unique strategy that vegetation employs to survive serious droughts by adjusting the allocation rate of photosynthesized carbon to leaves and stems.

Responding to a request from the World Bank Group, ICHARM has been implementing an agricultural drought monitoring and prediction project in Ceara State in Northeast Brazil in collaboration with the University of Tokyo and the Ceara State Meteorology and Water Resources Foundation (FUNCEME). In March 2019, ICHARM demonstrated a state-scale information sharing system using the Coupled Land and Vegetation Data Assimilation System (CLVDAS) operated by the Data Integration and Analysis System (DIAS). Putting a high valuation on its performance, the Secretariat of Agricultural Development of Ceara decided to provide the DIAS with local farming information obtained through the network of state agricultural instructors in real time. ICHARM is now making efforts to produce integrated, tailor-made agriculture support information, hoping that it will help the fight against severe droughts even more effectively than the strategy of natural vegetation does.

April 26, 2019
Toshio KOIKE
Director of ICHARM