Press release: When satellites guide pastoralists

Guy using cellphone

Bamako (Mali), 18 January 2018 - A first successful first step -  STAMP project led by SNV, aims to improve resilience amongst climate affected pastoralists in the Gao and Menaka regions in Mali by facilitating their use of satellite data.

The project initiated the development of GARBAL information service, now accessible from simple phones, to help pastoralists decide on the movements of their herds in search of water and pasture. The project experimental phase (2015-2018) funded by the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) has demonstrated a market entry point linking new technologies and pastoral communities in Gao and Menaka regions. With the experiences and lessons learned, this phase has shown the usefulness of the service, especially in view of the growing number of users. On this basis and taking into account the range of needs to be met to improve the conditions for livestock farming in pastoral areas, a second phase funded over 3 years by the Kingdom of the Netherlands will extend the service geographical coverage to Kidal, Timbuktu and Mopti regions. Furthermore, the information content will be widened to include advisory services, particularly on animal health, and an application will be developed to facilitate pastoralists' financial access to inputs.

The project implementation context

The consequences of climate change and insecurity are affecting pastoralists’ mobility. Their traditional means to search for natural resources and decide on their migration, are made uncertain, expensive and risky. However, livestock mobility in arid areas is essential for their survival, and is a key feature in pastoralists’ food security.

STAMP project proposes to make satellite data available to pastoralists to identify where water and pasture are located within 10 meters. With simple phones, pastoralists can talk in local languages with GARBAL service's call operators (by calling 37 333 for 25 XOF/min) or send USSD requests (at #222# for 75 XOF/request) in order to instantly obtain information about: (i) the availability and (ii) the quality of biomass, (iii) surface water availability, (iv) herd concentration around these resources and (v) Market prices for livestock and staple grains along the transhumance corridors. In addition to provide decision - making support information for their migration, STAMP new phase will offer advisory services on pastoral family farming management, including on animal health, and offers a tailor-made financial product adapted to pastoralists’ needs especially to improve their access to inputs. As the majority of pastoralists are not banked, it is indeed difficult for them to have access to any funding to develop their activities, this innovative solution will help them sustaining their livelihoods and will contribute to the economic recovery of the targeted areas by stimulating the value chains.

STAMP project relies on a combination of satellite data and information collected by pastoralists themselves in their vicinity; all more crucial than each other, to anticipate their movements, save time and money and, consequently, improve their livestock productivity.

Project results

Launched in 2015, STAMP project facilitated the development and experimentation of the service's information chain, then GARBAL was launched commercially in November 2017 in Gao. Since then, 1,307 calls from 83% of herders and 84,816 USSD requests from 55,821 users have been registered, which demonstrates the users’ interest for the service. In a survey of 400 people conducted in July 2018, 98% of users said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the service, 97.6% acknowledged the accuracy of the information provided and 91.2% said they had made different decisions based on the information received. In 2017, GARBAL service got the 1st award of ORANGE National Social Venture Prize. It was also presented at the 2018 World Water Week, held in Stockholm, Sweden, to highlight its technology for surface water detection in arid environments. Acknowledged as an innovation in the fight against climate change, it has been referenced by the United Nations Environment Program, which is the world's frontline agency against climate change.

Public-private partnership

The second phase of the STAMP project (€3.3 million) is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands through its Embassy in Mali. ORANGE Mali which manages and commercially operates the call centre, uses its networks and the technical solutions necessary for collecting and sharing field data. TASSAGHT local NGO supervises the collection and sharing of field data and raises awareness among pastoralists on the use of the service. Satellite data are processed and stored by Hoefsloot Spatial Solution. The Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries and its departments support the service promotion in the field, share and validate the disseminated information, particularly as regards the updating of legislation and regulations related to production, animal industries and pastoral development, animal and veterinary  health. The project is also supported by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Communication, which is involved in the governance of the service. Finally, SNV, which conceived the service, coordinates the project and ensures that it best matches the needs, realities and aspirations of pastoralists.

About SNV

SNV is an international non-profit development organization established in the Netherlands in 1965. It has been active in developing countries for more than 50 years, and now operates in 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. SNV is dedicated to a society in which all people, regardless of race, class or gender, enjoy the freedom to pursue their own sustainable development.

Known for its strong ability to implement and administer complex and large programs for many donors, SNV supports a portfolio of activities worth €130 million per year. Through the implementation of projects, advisory services, a knowledge network and advocacy support, SNV experts strengthen the capacity of local communities, businesses and organizations to become self-reliant, more effective and contribute to the reduction of extreme poverty and good governance.

SNV focuses on issues related to agriculture, food, energy, sanitation and water, four global challenges that strongly influence the opportunities of the poor and are closely linked to climate change. In Mali, where interventions began in 1979, the organisation has offices in Bamako, Ségou, Sikasso, Gao and will open a new station in Mopti. SNV works directly and through its partners in the Bamako district and the regions of Koulikoro, Kayes and Timbuktu.