On January 22, 2021, the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) and the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for development (RCMRD) held a meeting on support of the drought and early warning systems. Led by the Director General of RCMRD Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza, and the Chief Executive Officer (NDMA), Mr. James Oduor, the two organizations signed an MOU which will guide further collaboration.
The RCMRD and NDMA have been in consultations towards supporting drought and early warning systems through development of Earth observation (EO) products and tools. The EO-based products will facilitate evidence-based decision making for sustainable development, and make it easier for the government to monitor and forecast drought emergencies. The areas of collaboration between the two institutions will be on vegetation monitoring and forecasting, development of operational rangelands decision support services, and surface water monitoring.
NDMA and RCMRD have worked on Drought and Early Warning Systems through development of Earth observation/satellite imagery products, tools, and training which help to mitigate drought and enhance sustained development. Speaking during the MOU signing, Dr. Nkurunziza stated that, “RCMRD will utilize available data and assist counties manage their resources better. Through this MOU, we will strengthen our relationship and be at the service of the Country.”
Dr. Nkurunziza added that, “NDMA has been a consistent and reliable partner, whom we have partnered with through hazard atlases developed for various counties in Kenya.” The two organizations have previously collaborated on research projects that have used new methods and data for improving drought monitoring. One of these is the NASA DEVELOP 1 and 11 projects which explored methodologies for improving vegetation condition estimation. These methodologies are the Combined Drought Index derivation used in detection of drought in its different phases using Vegetation Condition Index (VCI) and Standardized Precipitation Index (SP1). Results from this data are compared against NDMA’s VCI data. Speaking during the event, NDMA CEO Mr. Oduor stated that the new areas of collaboration will be on Vegetation monitoring and forecasting, Rangeland Services and Forecasting, Foliage Forecasting, Surface Water Monitoring and Ground Water Monitoring. There have been collaborations with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) contributing to the development of an automated surface water detection tool. This allows a comparison of current water levels, with the highest historically recorded water levels to determine surface water availability. This helps in continuous monitoring of water levels as well as assessing historical data on each surface water source.
In the previous years, RCMRD has collaborated with University of Sussex in co-developing and implementing a VCI forecasting tool which gives up to 6 weeks forecast. This forecast is vital for planning and putting in place early warning mechanisms. Additionally, RCMRD and New Mexico State University collaboration led to the development of the Wet Season Woody and Herbaceous Forage Estimation and Dry Season Forage Biomass Estimation. This helps in the forecast of weekly forage availability effective for monitoring the dry periods and plan for any intervention when consistent shortage is observed. The VCI tool also helps in understanding woody vs herbaceous cover available. The new partnership will therefore provide a platform for commitment for the sustained development and applications of these tools. These are tools which will support decision making.