On May 23, 2022, the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) through the SERVIR Eastern and Southern Africa Project (SERVIR E&SA) launched a two-day workshop with main objectives to showcase, disseminate and exhibit the tools, products, methods and data that SERVIR (a global network of regional partners dedicated to environmental management) has co-developed; and facilitate partnerships, networks and stakeholders in the various SERVIR ESA thematic areas.
One of the tools that was showcased to stakeholders drawn from government, non governmental institutions, academia, private sector and media was the iSWIM application. Participants were from the following institutions: the Ministry of Water and Environment, Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Lands, Kyambogo College, Forest Department, Nakawa, Uganda National Fisheries Resources Research Institute, Uganda National Farmer’s Federation, Air Water Earth (AWE), Kyambogo University, Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), Disaster preparedness department, National Forestry Authority, Metro News, Meteorological Department, Makerere University (CEDAT), Environmental Surveys , Information, Planning and Policy Systems, National Water and Sewage Corporation, White Oak Holdings Limited, National Environmental Management Authority, Kilimo Trust, ESSIPS International and Uganda Meteorology Authority.
iSWIM is a web application tool providing access to pre-processed lake water quality indicator dataset such as Chlorophyll A, Lake Surface Temperature, Water Clarity indicators (e.g. Secchi Depth), and bio-productivity in the lake (trophic state). These indicators change over time and are indicators of lake ecosystem health. Managers can use this data to indicate levels of pollution, determine sources of these pollution, whether the ecosystem is ideal to support underwater life, and can also be used to monitor management efforts such as hyacinth management as well as the effect of new policies on lakes e.g., fish cage farming.
The data extracted from the iSWIM app can be combined with data derived from limnology studies and boat expeditions to provide a near-complete set of observations of key water quality indicators that can further be used by lake management experts, policy makers, data managers and other interested parties in various ways to support their decision-making efforts.
Photo 1: Some of the participants who took part in the Uganda Open Day in late May, 2022.
According to Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) Mr. Alfred Okot Okidi, the path to the development of the Inland Satellite Based Water Quality Indicators Monitor (iSWIM) that began in May 2016 during the Needs Assessment exercise that brought together more than 20 institutions to discuss the various developmental challenges we encounter as a country. “Let us keep working together to encourage and promote the use of earth observation and location sciences in finding solutions to the developmental challenges we encounter.”
Photo2: Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE), Uganda Mr. Alfred Okot Okidi
Photo3: RCMRD Director General Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza addressing participants at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala, Uganda.
He noted the journey to the development of the Inland Satellite Based Water Quality Indicators Monitor (iSWIM) that began in May 2016 during the Needs Assessment exercise that brought together more than 20 institutions to discuss the various developmental challenges that Uganda encounters as a country.
Addressing the different stakeholders, RCMRD Director General Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza said: One of the reasons that the Centre was set up was to help member States map and actually understand the natural resources that they have and to help member States plan their use and monitor the use or misuse.
He went on to say that water resources are a critical resource on our continent and indeed in the whole world. “There are many surface water sources including lakes, rivers and streams that are very important in different sectors such as domestic use, fishing, transport and helping in power generation. The many uses cannot be fulfilled if we do not understand these resources, manage them and ensure their quality is maintained.”
Our purpose here is to meet the different stakeholders in Uganda because there are a number of activities that we undertake using earth observation to monitor these resources. We are showing the power of space science and satellite technology to be able to improve the existing capabilities of monitoring the quality of these resources.
The DG further said that in the past three years, the Centre and the partners have co-developed an Inland Satellite Based Water Quality Indicators Monitoring tool (iSWIM) for Lake Victoria looking at various aspects of water quality using Earth Observation Satellite information.
“Having a forum like this where we showcase and share experiences in what has been done in the past few years in the water, agricultural, land use and ecosystem sectors, promotes our ideals in Collaboration, Learning and Adaptation. We learn, we share and we improve. Your feedback and thoughts about the tools and initiatives that will be launched and showcased today will go a long way in making what we have better and usable.”
Speaking during the opening session, SERVIR E&SA Project Manager Dr. Robinson Mugo said the Centre in partnership with the Ministry of Water and Environment, and NAFIRI has co-developed various services and products meant to address the developmental challenges in Uganda within the project geographical scope in the following thematic areas: Weather and Climate, Land Use Land Cover and Ecosystems, Water and Water Related Disasters. He added that a critical aspect to the development is creating awareness and dissemination of the products to various stakeholders within Uganda.
The PS enumerated the input of geospatial information and technologies saying, it was critical in all the sectors and priorities of the Republic of Uganda. “Therefore, building capacity on the use of geospatial information in decision making, modernizing our processes and workflows through adoption of relevant technologies and reforming key pieces of legislation and regulations is a path we all endeavor to take today.”
On the issue of water quality, he said water quality is one of the major challenges facing several inland lakes in our country. A phenomenon attributed to rapid population growth, urbanization, degraded river catchments and increased competing interests for the scarce water resources as well as lack of reliable information to support water resources planning, allocation and management decisions.
“We believe with the tools launched today; we can now handle the water quality aspects better. Simple but pertinent questions for example which areas are polluted within the lake, now have an answer,” the PS added.
RCMRD further launched a mentorship program at Makerere University. The move was aimed at promoting and building capacity of the youthful generation in use of earth observation technologies in resource management. Students studying the use of satellite information and the preparation of maps for use in various fields at Makerere University, were asked to use the knowledge gained in social change.
The RCMRD, which is training students at the Makerere University, is using the knowledge and technology that has been achieved in their studies to use it when they arrive at work.
RCMRD Director Dr Emmanuel Nkurunziza explained that the partnership with Makerere University will enable them to train students to focus on the latest technology in the world as it is a rapidly changing category and therefore requires young people to be provided with the latest knowledge.
Dr. Venny Nakazibwe the Deputy principal for the CEDAT), Makerere University
From Left to Right: Dr. Ronald Sengendo, Head of Department, College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), Dr. Venny Nakazibwe the Deputy principal for the CEDAT) RCMRD Director General Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza and Mr. Paul Idude Director Corporate Services at RCMRD.
Officials of Makerere Kuza Club Mentorship Program