7.3.2 MERA '95 (MARS and Environmental Related Applications)
A multi-country project for rapid environmental agricultural monitoring and statistics in the PHARE Countries (1996-1998)

In the collaboration and establishment of partnership between the PHARE Countries and the European Union, both a reliable knowledge on the environment, its parameters and the timely assessment of the main crops of the related countries are important. These statistics must be collected according to approaches and methods similar or comparable to the ones presently applied within the European Union. These methods have been developed in the framework of the 10-year (1988-1998) MARS Project. The MERA ’95 Project is a complement to the MERA '92 Project in conjunction with the using of CORINE Land Cover database for the PHARE countries.

The MERA'95 Project is rather complex and multi-disciplinary. It involves various institutions in the participating PHARE countries as well as various services of the European Commission. The MERA project activities refer to the adaptation of already existing methods in the participating PHARE Countries or to the adaptation and implementation of MARS method at the multi-country or at the national scale. The MERA'95 Project is organized into two fields, in which a national and a multi-country network will be established. The first field is to acquire rapid, timely and harmonized information on significant changes in land use and crop acreages compared to the previous year at the level of the 6 countries region (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia). Further consolidation of the MERA '92 Programme is also part of this field. The second field is to start the implementation of the basic MERA activities in the 5 new PHARE counties (Albania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithunia and Slovenia). The project is funded by the PHARE Multi-Country Environmental Programme of the Directorate General 1A-External Affairs the European Commission. Technical partners are the National Focal Points (NFPs) in each participating country and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission as Programme Management Unit (PMU).

The method and product of the planned activities
Multi-Country Rapid Estimates of Land Cover and Crop Area Changes
The annual changes in areas under agricultural cultivation and other major land cover categories will be provided for the region of interest (6 countries) every month, from March to October. The estimates are derived from a regional sample of 40 sites, 40x40 km each using the same methods and system applied in the MARS project and extending the analysis to other major non agricultural land cover classes. The interpretation and analysis of satellite images, statistical extrapolation procedure and final acreage estimates will be carried out by specialized service, public or private companies based on a call for tender. The ground data will be collected in each country by the NFPs.
Consolidation of the MERA '92 Programme in the 6 countries (MERA'95 National Projects)
These activities refer to the further implementation and consolidation of the started MERA'92 activities in the 6 countries and will be performed by the NFPs. The thematic activities, applied methods, type and distribution of outputs will be defined in the Technical Proposal of each NFP based on the Technical Specifications of PMU and the NFPs decision according to the attributed priorities and level of information available in the countries. The main activities are the area frame sampling survey, agrometeorological modeling and vegetation condition monitoring tasks. In addition to these activities, ground survey in MERA Rapid Estimates sites will be performed and a National Environment and Agriculture Conjuncture Bulletin will be produced. The production of an Environment and Agriculture Conjuncture Bulletin has the highest degree of priority, providing decision makers with a periodic synthesis of the evolution of the agricultural campaign from March to November 1997 at 4 times (crop and land use acreage from year to year, crop development state, growing coalitions, expected yield, evolution of the season etc). All the other MERA tasks performed at national level and other ancillary data will produce inputs to the Conjuncture Bulletin. The Bulletin will be distributed to the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Ministry of Environment (MoERP), Statistical Office, PMU, DG I., Eurostat and DG VI. The first phase of the project is approved and includes preparatory activities in 1996 and an operational campaign in 1997. The second phase is to be approved including the operational campaign of 1998.
Start of the implementation of the basic MERA activities in the 5 new PHARE countries
This activity will be a logical extension of the MERA '92 expertise and the already tested methodologies to the Baltic countries, Albania and Slovenia. Different activities will be initiated to obtain land use statistics and to assess agricultural production for selected pilot areas, to conduct vegetation conditions monitoring with low resolution satellite data, crop state monitoring and yield forecasting with agrometeorological model, to prepare harmonized soils data base on a scale of 1:1.000.000 and to map forest ecosystems.

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