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Geospatial solutions for evaluating the impact of the Tigray conflict on farming


Military conflicts strongly affect agricultural activities. This has strong implications for people’s livelihoods when agriculture is the backbone of the economy. We assessed the effect of the Tigray conflict on farming activities using freely available remote sensing data. For detecting greenness, a normalized difference vegetation Index (NDVI) was analyzed in Google Earth Engine (GEE) using Sentinel 2 satellite images acquired in the pre-war (2020) and during war (2021) spring seasons. CHIRPS data were analyzed in GEE to understand the rainfall conditions. The NDVI of 2020 showed that farmlands were poorly covered with vegetation. However, in 2021, vegetation cover existed in the same season. The NDVI changes stretched from − 0.72 to 0.83. The changes in greenness were categorized as increase (2167 km2), some increase (18,386 km2), no change (1.6 km2), some decrease (8269 km2), and decrease (362 km2). Overall, 72% of the farmlands have seen increases in green vegetation before crops started to grow in 2021. Scattered patches with decreases in vegetation cover correspond to irrigation farms and spring-cropping rain-fed farms uncultivated in 2021. There was no clear pattern of changes in vegetation cover as a function of agro-climatic conditions. The precipitation analysis shows less rainfall in 2021 as compared to 2020, indicating that precipitation has not been an important factor. The conflict is most responsible for fallowing farmlands covered with weeds in the spring season of 2021. The use of freely accessible remote sensing data helps recognizing absence of ploughing in crisis times.

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Availability of data and materials

Availability of data and materials data are available and can be provided as required.

Code availability

Code availability used the available software programs and codes.


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We would like to pass our gratitude to the staff of the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Mekelle University, (MU) who managed to provide us recent photos of the farming conditions in Tigray in a blackout condition. We acknowledge Ghent University (UGent), Université Libre De Bruxelles (ULB) and the VLIR for their academic and financial support. The Global Society of Tigray Scholars and Professionals (GSTS) is also acknowledged for exchange of ideas through various discussion forums. We are pleased to acknowledge the reviewers and the editors for investing their time for reviewing an earlier version of this manuscript and suggesting improvements.


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Correspondence to Biadgilgn Demissie.

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Edited by Dr. Mehdi Abdolmaleki (ASSOCIATE EDITOR) / Prof. Savka Dineva (CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF).

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Demissie, B., Nyssen, J., Annys, S. et al. Geospatial solutions for evaluating the impact of the Tigray conflict on farming. Acta Geophys. 70, 1285–1299 (2022).

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  • Remote sensing
  • Farming activities
  • Resilience
  • Vegetation Index
  • Humanitarian crisis
  • War