Innovative Environmental approaches expected as AfriGEO Symposium closes

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AfriGEO delegates who attended and participate in the two day event. PHOTO/GEO.
AfriGEO delegates who attended and participate in the two day event. PHOTO/GEO.

The 6th African Group on Earth Observation community (AfriGEO) Symposium ended on November 1 in Accra, Ghana.

The two-day programme leaned towards the theme: Harnessing EO towards resilient and sustainable systems, communities and resources.

Over 500 participants attended the symposium held as a side event of this year’s GEO-Week that convened government institutions, academic and research institutions, data providers, businesses, engineers, scientists, media and other experts.

It sought to create innovative solutions to global challenges at a time of exponential data growth, human development, and climate change that transcend national and disciplinary boundaries.

AfriGEO is an initiative of the African community in the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO), aimed at providing a coordination framework and platform for Africa’s participation in GEO.

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO), an intergovernmental partnership of more than 100 countries plus the European Commission, promotes the extensive use of Earth Observations (EO) data, information, and knowledge for research, policy, decisions, and action.

Cynthia Bediako, Chief Director, Ministry of Environment Science Technology and Innovation Ghana and Chief Guest, opening the 6th AfriGEO Symposium. PHOTO/GEO.
Cynthia Bediako, Chief Director, Ministry of Environment Science Technology and Innovation Ghana and Chief Guest, opening the 6th AfriGEO Symposium. PHOTO/GEO.

AfriGEO symposiums have been held annually since 2016. They provide an opportunity for the AfriGEO Community to engage, connect and build meaningful areas of collaboration to address development challenges on the continent using earth observation.

Submissions

Speakers at the Group on Earth Observation event in Accra, Ghana, underlined that Earth Observation data could help address persistent and emerging global threats, unlock climate finance and enhance national planning capacities.

The event was also designed as an opportunity for knowledge exchange, learning and international collaboration and comprised of plenary decision-making sessions.

The 6th AfriGEO symposium was organized by the Secretariat and the GEO Secretariat in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MESTI); Ghana Statistical Service (GSS); the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR), as well as the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute (GSSTI).

The Chief Director of MESTI, Cynthia Asare Bediako, speaking during the event, charged the participants to take major decisions that would help protect the natural environment of member countries.

According to her, the planned policies and programmes, when followed, coupled with a change of attitude towards the natural vegetation, would end land degradation, pollution of water bodies and digging every part of the land.

Dr. Robinson Mugo giving remarks on behalf of the Director General of RCMRD, Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza, which hosts the AFRIGEO Secretariat at the Opening Ceremony of 6th AFRIGEO. PHOTO/GEO.
Dr. Robinson Mugo giving remarks on behalf of the Director General of RCMRD, Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza, which hosts the AFRIGEO Secretariat at the Opening Ceremony of 6th AFRIGEO. PHOTO/GEO.

She assured governments resolve to implement any decision taken at the end of the conference to prevent disaster from befalling the continent.

Dr. Robinson Mugo, who spoke on behalf of Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza, the Director General Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development, and the current AFRI GEO Secretariat, attributed the achievements of the group to the resilience of members who have worked very hard in capacity building and membership drive, increasing their numbers and continuing to play that role.

SERVIR-WA Phase II launch

During the second day of the 6th symposium, participants attended the launch of the second phase of SERVIR West Africa combined with six recipients of the SERVIR West Africa Small Innovation Grant grants’ award ceremony, as well as the launch of the Africa Data Capacity Accelerator for Climate & Health in partnership.

SERVIR-WA Phase II launch. PHOTO/GEO.
SERVIR-WA Phase II launch. PHOTO/GEO.

Participants witnessed the launch of the second phase of SERVIR West Africa, a joint initiative of NASA and USAID, which uses EO to assess water resources in water-scarce regions in West Africa, assists in agricultural planning and tracks water resources for herders and pastoralist communities.

During the launch, Jo Lesser-Oltheten, Director of West Africa Mission, USAID, underlined the importance of SERVIR’s use of cutting-edge data to provide solutions to 21st Century problems.

Lawrence Friedl, the Director of the Applied Sciences Program within the Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters, said the agency is excited about all the many innovations and achievements this new phase will achieve.

“Together with people and institutions in the region, SERVIR West Africa 2 will lead to bigger and better ways; geospatial and earth science information benefits the region, building on the successes of the first phase,” he noted.

Hosted by the AfriGEO Symposium, Davis Adieno of Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) introduced the Africa Data Capacity Accelerator for Climate & Health launch in partnership with data.org’s Capacity Accelerator Network.

Ronda Zelezny-Green, Capacity Accelerator Network at data.org, introduced the Network, noting its support for data to enhance social impact.

Dr. David Saah giving his submissions on Overview of Geospatial Data Infrastructure. PHOTO/GEO.
Dr. David Saah giving his submissions on the Overview of Geospatial Data Infrastructure. PHOTO/GEO.

She stressed that data.org works to increase data capacity, using the data commons and identifying best practices for social impact.

During the closing session of AfriGEO, Zelezny-Green stressed that “…we cannot afford not to do this data work,” calling it the bedrock for climate action, Indigenous Peoples issues, healthcare, disaster risk reduction, and agriculture, among others.

Amos Kabo-bah, Acting Dean for the International Relations Office, University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR), called on all stakeholders to work together to transform decision-making processes through EO.

The week ended with training on monitoring and early warning for floods, held on November 4 and 5, 2022.

Participants and Objectives

The training brought together partners: SERVIR Science and Coordination Office and SERVIR Eastern and Southern Africa hub, Spatial Informatics Group (SIG) and Digital Earth Africa (DE Africa), through the partnership of AfriGEO and Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), to deliver the training that aimed to introduce various geospatial data infrastructure options available to researchers and decision-makers and to explore uses of different Earth observation tools to address floods challenges experienced all over Africa.

Monitoring and Early Warning for Floods Training Participants having a group photo. PHOTO/GEO.
Monitoring and Early Warning for Floods Training Participants having a group photo. PHOTO/GEO.

The training objectives were to improve the awareness of different stakeholders of different geospatial data infrastructure options and Earth observation tools, as well as increase their capacity to use various tools available for monitoring floods and to inform early action and preparedness.

The training was further aimed at understanding community challenges related to floods; introducing decision-makers to different geospatial data infrastructure options available and improving the awareness of stakeholders on available tools for flood monitoring and flood early warning: HYDRAFloods, GEOGloWS-CBFEWS, ECMWF and WOfS.

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It would also improve their capacity on the use of existing tools for decision making using showcases: HYDRA Floods, DE Africa Tools for Flood mapping, value of data integration of In-situ and EO data to supplement existing data gaps, use of SAR data in mapping spatial extent of floods, integration with biophysical data (population, infrastructure, housing, health facilities, WASH facilities) to analyze resources and people affected and linkages with forecast-based financing.

Delegates being trained on Tool Highlight of SERVIR-ESA by Calvince Wara. PHOTO/GEO.
Delegates being trained on Tool Highlight of SERVIR-ESA by Calvince Wara. PHOTO/GEO.
SERVIR West Africa Small Innovation Grant ceremony and gifting of winners. PHOTO/GEO.
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Ms Dorah Nesoba is a Public Relations and Communication Officer, Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD). Her contact: dorah.nesoba@gmail.com

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