The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) held the fourth annual RCMRD International Conference (#RIC2021). The conference was virtually held from August 17 to 19, 2021. During the three days conference that had more than 1,000 registered virtual attendees and 16 speakers, all discussed the use of space technology to tackle climate change and other weather-related disasters on the continent. They also discussed formulating ideas toward the utilization of earth observation and geospatial technology in development and decision-making with focus on agriculture and food security, weather and climate, water and water-related disasters, land use, administration and management, and the creation of innovation and developers hubs. In her opening remarks, Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney said the theme for this year’s conference “Reflecting on Resilience: Mapping challenges and Solutions for a Better World,” was a literal reflection of what the world needs today, right from coping with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic but, more importantly, from the existential threat posed by the effects of climate change on people’s livelihoods and survival. She argued that science and innovation should be at the centre of tackling challenges facing Africa.
The Cabinet Secretary for Lands & Physical Planning in Kenya noted that the input of geospatial information and technologies is critical in all the four pillars of the Government of Kenya’s ‘Big 4 Agenda’ of Agriculture & food security; housing, affordable healthcare and manufacturing. "My ministry has over the past four years embarked upon a land reform programme in support of this agenda by seeking to clarify tenure rights through mapping and documentation of these rights for hitherto unreached Kenyans, building capacity of our land and mapping institutions, modernizing our processes through adoption of relevant technologies and reforming key pieces of legislation and regulations." She added, "all this work culminated in the recent launch of a digital land information system that will ensure all land transactions can be processed online and this will not only improve efficiency but also ensure transparency and accountability in delivery of land services to the citizens."
For issues mapping, the CS had this to say, "we are at advanced stages of modernizing our geodetic reference system with the installation of continuously operating reference stations across the country in line with the continental AFREF programme whose sub-committee is currently chaired by Kenya." A few years ago we also started the process of establishing the national spatial data infrastructure to ease standardization, management and sharing of geospatial information in support of all sectors of the economy. Furthermore, in 2017 we launched the first ever national geospatial plan to guide development across the country. This is to be operationalized through County spatial plans and a number of counties have so far completed development of these plans. This has been possible through working with both local and international partners such as RCMRD, the EU and FAO. We count on expanded partnership and contribution from all of you to take all these programmes forward by infusing latest knowledge and innovation.
RCMRD Govening Council Chairperson Ms. Bonolo Elizabeth Khumotaka who is also Botswana's Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, said from its founding, RCMRD was envisaged as a Centre of Excellence that would be at the forefront of finding solutions to different societal problems in member States through the power of mapping and earth observations. "It is to this end that the idea of an international conference was born about five years ago to provide a forum to different actors in the geospatial space in Africa and beyond to share new developments in the rapidly evolving field." I wish to thank the Management of the Centre, together with our partners, for operationalizing this initiative and nurturing it to what is now one of the key events that everyone in this field looks forward to. It was unfortunate that the Covid-19 pandemic made it impossible to host it last year but I am glad that with the help of technology we are able to have it this year.
The overall theme of the conference and the four areas in which the conference papers have been grouped resonates very well with the issues that are current and pertinent in our member States and indeed across the African continent. "Issues of food security and agriculture, land management, disaster preparedness and building resilience in our communities require the highest priority and geospatial information and technologies can play an important role in dealing with them," she said.
The GC chair assured the conference attendees, the RCMRD partners and supporters as well as the member States that the Governing Council would ensure the RCMRD play the role of bridging the gap between research/science and policy to ensure that this important work that is being shared here finds its way in our policies and informs the planning that we make to transform the lives of our citizens. We will continue to push for increased support to innovation and research, whether by way of resources or political support because we can confidently assert their long-term benefit to sustainable development.
RCMRD Director General Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza welcomed all delegates noting that the 4th annual RCMRD International Conference virtual event (RIC 2021) was a unique forum that brought together scientists, policy makers, managers and decision makers to address some of the most pressing societal problems of our generation. The RCMRD community strongly believes in the power of social interactions, collaboration, science, technology and innovation, in addressing societal problems. For that reason, he said RCMRD had made a commitment to provide all member States with cutting edge in geo-information, to ensure that decision making in their respective countries was anchored on the best available and usable science and technology. "The Centre is also putting significant efforts in building the capacity of our stakeholders and institutions in the use of Earth Observation and Geographic information Systems in natural resource management, planning, utilization and decision making. The world is increasingly facing many challenges in land management and administration, food insecurity, access to safe drinking water, disruption and loss of livelihoods as a result of climate related disasters. Fortunately, governments, and the private sector in the region can improve their planning and mitigation measures against these challenges if they have access to timely and accurate information. Our role as geo-information specialists is to support these efforts in order to ensure that the communities, we serve can build robust resilience mechanisms against environmental and climatic challenges of our time.
Both NASA and USAID were honored to have virtually participated in the 2021 RCMRD Regional International Conference (RIC2021). They congratulated RCMRD for pulling off an outstanding event and noted that it was a privilege to join and so encouraging to see the enormous capacity in the region to use Earth observations with a focus on impact, societal benefit, collaboration and collective learning. Dr. Pete Epanchin from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Dr. Dan Irwin the SERVIR Program Manager said they were looking forward to seeing how the theme of resilience would be further integrated into SERVIR-E&SA’s services.
Videos from RIC2021 are available here: Day 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2_97BGAu_k Day 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btjdaL0W2_U&t=3035s and Day 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jsul7zXhn-c and the closing ceremony: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Swe6mxz7cnNx5CjUdhFNAgjWJcddvzQj/view?usp=sharing