The IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) and Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) are holding the first regional workshop for East Africa under phase 2 of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES and Africa) programme.
The workshop whose main objectives are to engage, dialogue, network and create awareness of GMES and Africa phase 2 among East African stakeholders including the private sector, policy makers, academia and end users. This phase is also expected to raise awareness of the GMES and Africa phase 2 activities at national and regional levels with a focus of the six result areas namely: Improved policy and institutional framework for sustainable management of natural resources and climate change based on Space Science and Technology applications, Improved access to Earth Observation data and information products on natural resources, environment and climate change in relevant East African institutions, Information services are operational for policy makers, private sector and end users for management and monitoring of Natural Resources and Food Security, Capacities of African public institutions, users of GMES services and private sector to take advantage of EO-based information for Water & Natural Resources applications are enhanced at regional and national level, Knowledge management, including cross fertilization, is improved and Outreach, uptake and dissemination is enhanced.
Other objectives include cooperation and joint implementation of activities of common interests such as data access and capacity building for the East African Consortia and involvement of Indian Ocean Islands Countries. Further, the consortia are expected to collect feedback and additional needs on the developed products and services.
Addressing delegates, Hon. Dr. Mary G. Kitutu; the Minister Karamoja Affairs, Uganda who delivered keynote remarks, urged scientists to allocate budgets to information collection and dissemination. “They say information is power, when you make decisions without information, you are making blind decisions.”
Dr. Kitutu, went on to state that geo-spatial Science and Technology is already playing a central role in daily decision making as well as national endeavors to attain development goals. “I need not emphasize how Earth observation is transforming decisions in environmental management, I am particularly impressed that this initiative is following a multi-sectoral and inter-disciplinary approach with great potential for success. She said Space-based assets such as satellites, can positively impact climate change management at every phase, “from monitoring and prediction to mitigation and adaptation - by providing data that enables better informed decision-making with regards to socio-economic conditions, climate process drivers, climate change indicators, and impacts and vulnerability.”
The Minister noted that the region, (East Africa) also suffers from a lack of data that has led to challenges in measuring the extent of climate change. “This results in inaccurate forecasts and poor or non-existent early-warning systems for deadly cyclones, prolonged droughts and intense floods.” She thanked the European Union for financially supporting the implementation of the program in Africa.
RCMRD Director General Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza appreciated the fact that Dr. Kitutu was not a stranger in the geospatial world. “It is a great pleasure to have you specifically here because this is your community, you are a geo champion, a geospatial person, and your presence has added value beyond just officiating the occasion.”
He said RCMRD has for quite some time been involved in the GMES and Africa and its predecessor forms such as MESA. “The objective has always been the same, and that has been how can we as Africans, harness the immense potential provided by geospatial technological developments to help the key sectors in our countries such as the environment and other different services.” He added that the key question Africa is seeking to address is how are we are making the use of the technology. “The technology is now there; the producers are also there and giving advice to our decision makers is what remains.”
Speaking for ICPAC, Mr. Eugene Kayijamahe, the GMES and Africa Project Manager representing the Director ICPAC Dr. Guleid Artan said the workshop aimed at emphasizing the need for accurate, timely and reliable information for decision making in the region. “This region is facing the worst drought and other climate change related impacts. It is enriching to learn about real cases on which these two consortia are saving lives and resources.”
The two institutions thanked the Government of Uganda for agreeing to host the regional workshop and the warm welcome accorded to the delegates.
Dr. Tidiane Quattara the African Union’s Space Science Expert and GMES & Africa Support Program Coordinator gave his remarks and emphasized the need for collaboration, synergy and cross-fertilization among the consortia. He also advised the consortia to involve women and youth.
The regional workshop serves as a platform for elevating discussions with partners, stakeholders and users on project impacts at the regional level. They are also designed for engaging policy and decision makers as well as other actors in dialogue and networking, discuss cooperation and joint implementation of activities of common interests (Data access, capacity building) for the East African consortia, and collect feedback and further needs on the developed products and services. The workshop participants are drawn from the following countries; Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania & Uganda.
The workshop’s envisaged outcomes will be to ensure shared knowledge and understanding of the new and innovative Earth Observation technologies, and their application to society. Road map of common activities implementation, GMES and Africa stakeholders are engaged and user needs and feedback different aspects of the project are documented.