Mapping for Sustainable Development
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Rwanda is one of the countries in eastern and southern Africa that has benefited from Earth observation and geo-spatial technology services offered by the SERVIR Eastern and Southern Africa (E&SA) project, hosted at the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD). In the last few years, SERVIR E&SA has worked with Rwanda to deliver services that address land use land cover change, vulnerability to landslides, crop monitoring and capacity building of students using Earth observation data and tools. To facilitate dissemination of services to partner agencies and decision makers, on May 30, 2022, the SERVIR E&SA Project held a two-day workshop to showcase some of the services co-developed with partner institutions in Rwanda, in a meeting which also enhanced partnerships and networking in the four SERVIR thematic areas.

Participants during the Open Day held in Kigali, Rwanda. 

While delivering his opening remarks at the workshop held in Kigali, Rwanda, the RCMRD Director General, Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza observed that Rwanda had benefited a lot from the SERVIR project in the fields of agriculture (crop monitors), land use, land cover and ecosystems (land cover map development), weather and climate (Space Challenge for schools) and water and related disasters (monitoring of lakes). The DG informed the workshop that the purpose of the meeting was for “RCMRD to showcase services and products that SERVIR had co-developed with partners in Rwanda, who included MINAGRI, Rwanda Meteorology Agency, the Land Authority and others”. He explained that the goal of co-developing the services using SERVIR’s elaborate Service Planning Approach was to ensure that they indeed provided answers to the questions asked by decision makers on the ground. Over the years, Nkurunziza added that, “the services provided to Rwanda had expanded from land use and land cover mapping, to crop mapping which was very important in monitoring crop health.” The Crop Mapping Service was designed to provide information if a season’s harvest will be optimum or below expectations, among other food security related decisions. In addition to showcasing services co-developed with Rwanda, RCMRD/SERVIR also launched a student mentorship program at the University of Rwanda (UR), which SERVIR refers to as “Kuza”, a Swahili word meaning “to nurture”. At the University of Rwanda, the students embraced the Kuza mentorship initiative and christened it “Aguka” in Kinyarwanda, which means to bring up or to grow. Dr. Nkurunziza explained that such a mentorship platform will inspire the next generation of space scientists from the country.


RCMRD Director General Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza addressing participants during the opening ceremony of the Open Day in Rwanda

The Director General for Agriculture Modernisation in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr. Octave Semwaga, described the 2-day workshop as an opportunity for researchers, government officials and other development partners to embrace and learn about new services from Earth observation data for better management of natural resources. “It is an important occasion for agriculture and farmers in general, because all agricultural activities are done on land which is a natural resource that needs to be properly managed, and is efficiently monitored from satellite data,” the Director General reiterated. He also informed the workshop that Rwanda was delighted to collaborate with RCMRD and SERVIR in a crop monitoring project, spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, which facilitated evidence-based decisions at the onset of planting. He noted with delight that in the past three years, the Centre and its partners had co-developed and implemented the following services: the Rwanda Crop Monitor, the Rwanda Space Challenge (with the Ministry of Education, UNESCO Rwanda, TAHMO and Meteo Rwanda), and the Land Use Decision Support System among others. The Rwanda Crop Monitor is designed under collaboration with GEOGLAM, a GEO initiative that provides open, timely, science-driven information on crop conditions in support of market transparency for the G20 Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS). The Rwanda Space Challenge is a mentorship activity that RCMRD/SERVIR coordinates in collaboration with the education sector in Rwanda, to inspire primary and secondary school students to make use of and interpret satellite images on topics such as land use change, urbanization and agriculture. The Land Use Decision Support System offers map-based information on the levels of vulnerability for hazards such as landslides in different areas in Rwanda. 


 Dr. Octave Semwaga, Director General for Agriculture Modernisation in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources who officially launched the RCMRD/SERVIR E&SA Open Day in Rwanda 

The Director General of the Rwanda Space Agency, Col. Francis Ngabo, expressed willingness to work with RCMRD to bring in services that would provide more expertise in Rwanda in the short term. He appreciated that building capacity and skills in the field of Earth observation data and analytics was key in helping the country deal with development challenges in future.

Participants listening to the key note speeches during the Open Day held in Rwanda on May 30 and 31, 2022 

The media houses that were present in the two events included Rwanda Broadcasting Corporation (RBC), The New Times (TNT), Flash TV, Rwanda, Press Box and Below find media coverage from the two events held in Rwanda.   


By Dorah Nesoba, Kenneth Kasera and Dr. Robinson Mugo. 

†SERVIR is joint initiative of NASA, USAID, and leading geospatial organizations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, SERVIR partners with countries and organizations in these regions to address critical challenges in climate change, food security, water and related disasters, land use, and air quality. Using satellite data and geospatial technology, SERVIR co-develops innovative solutions through a network of regional hubs to improve resilience and sustainable resource management at local, national and regional scales.

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