Mongolia is a large country (over 6 times the size of the UK) with approximately 30% of its population dependent on livestock herding who are exposed to extreme weather events, known as dzuds, which are increasingly exacerbated by climate change and are highly damaging to Mongolia’s economy and devastating for the poorest herders. A typical dzud can impact tens of thousands of herders many of whom can lose all their livestock leaving them in extreme poverty, with associated impacts for the wider economy.

The SIBELIUs project, supported by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP), will deliver greater dzud-resilience for herders by providing Mongolia’s National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring (NAMEM) with improved capacity for distributing new and upgraded environmental products to key stakeholders who are supporting the herding communities. Products contain information regarding pasture, snow and drought, including absolute values, anomalies and trends.

SIBELIUs pasture snow drought

Improved products will provide complete-country coverage and will be provided more frequently than is currently possible, for longer periods of the year, more accurately and with improved spatial resolution.

SIBELIUs better means

SIBELIUs will channel its benefits through three existing networks: (1) the insurance sector, (2) government agencies coordinating livestock and land use, (3) directly to the herders through text messaging and television broadcasts.

A Mongolian Data Cube will form a key component of the SIBELIUs infrastructure which will allow time series of satellite data and derived products to be queried by staff at NAMEM and other Government agencies. A processing back-end system downloads and process Sentinel and Landsat data to “applications ready data” (ARD) standard, providing cloud masking, snow extent masking and indices calculation (e.g. NDVI, NDDI etc.). Output products from the Data Cube will be ingested by desktop applications, web apps and dashboard front ends for stakeholders to utilise further. Initially, the Mongolian Data Cube will cover six county sized regions of Mongolia, before expanding to cover the whole of Mongolia before the project’s end in 2021.

As a vital component of the project, SIBELIUs will work with herders at selected case study sites to analyse their information requirements, to better understand barriers to uptake of previous products, and to ensure their voices and priorities are heard in the development and distribution of new satellite-based environmental products.

SIBELIUS is supported by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP). This is a five-year, £152 million programme designed to partner UK space expertise with overseas governments and organisations. It is funded from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund which forms part of the UK Government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment and is overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and delivered through 17 delivery partners including the Research Councils, the UK Academies, the UK Space Agency and funding bodies. It harnesses the expertise of the UK’s world-leading researchers, focusing on: funding challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research; strengthening capability for research, innovation and knowledge exchange; and providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research or on-the-ground need.

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