Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) is hosting the second International Conference which started with a pre-event on Sunday August 12 and concludes today with sessions on Academia. Geared to spur the exchange of ideas on fast-tracking application of Earth observation (satellite data) and geospatial technologies in development decision making, the conference seeks to answer the question “how the earth observation information could be used to effectively address problems that impact livelihoods in Africa and science policy linkages.”
During the official opening of the conference on Wednesday, Dr. Farida Karoney, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning said it was gratifying to see delegates from various Earth Observation fields from
around the world converging in Nairobi-based RCMRD to exchange notes on the current state of development in the area of space science and how these advancements can be harnessed for the benefit of mankind.
The CS said the choice of the theme of this year’s conference as ‘Space Science for Sustainable Development’ couldn’t be timelier. "This year (2018), the world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space at a time when every nation is pre-occupied with the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Science and Technology will play a central role in attaining these development goals."
RCMRD through the SERVIR (https://www.servirglobal.net/) a partnership between,USAID and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are using Earth observation information to improve environmental management and resilience to climate change through regional institutions supported by the SERVIR global network.
NASA project Project Scientist for SERVIR, Dr. Ashutosh Limaye said Technical exchanges like the RCMRD International Conference are critically important, they expand our horizons. Brings a new way of analysis, or a different perspective on the issue at hand. "Earth observations provide a vantage point from space that is unique. It knows no boundaries; at the same time, it provides us with an opportunity for objective analysis."
He added that NASA just launched an instrument to better understand the Sun’s corona. "Why is it hotter than the core? How can we predict when the solar flairs will erupt. Any of the flairs can disrupt life on Earth in a major way, how can we study it so one day we can protect ourselves better." SERVIR, he said, aims to connect satellite data with environmental decision-making around the world.
The CS reiterated the importance of land saying,"Land remains a critical resource whose proper management can only be enhanced by understanding it better through its mapping and having the right policies for its administration in place,” she said.
USAID Kenya and East Africa Deputy Mission Director Dr. Patrick Wilson said the information and analyses provided by RCMRD/SERVIR is critical to work that USAID is doing with vulnerable pastoralist communities within the arid and semi-arid lands in northern Kenya. "With an investment of over KES 29 billion ($291 million), USAID, through its Partnership for Resilience and Economic Growth (PREG), established a strong multi-sectoral coordination program that works closely with various Government of Kenya implementing agencies and partners."
He said the goal of PREG is to convene humanitarian and development partners to work together to help communities be more resilient, so that they can withstand shocks of drought and other natural and manmade disasters. "One successful initiative of the SERVIR program was the digitizing of grazing areas in the northern parts of the country to improve rangeland management by key national and county government agencies, as well as by committees established by communities."
In addition, SERVIR worked with USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) and Kenya’s Department of Agriculture to update the cropland maps. These maps provide information on the locations of the crops being grown and if they are rain-fed or irrigated. In Uganda, the National Forest Authority is using these maps and applications to estimate the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. "RCMRD/SERVIR-E&SA maps are supporting effective landscape measurements, monitoring and reporting. RCMRD/SERVIR is indeed helping Kenya and communities around the world to find a path to self-reliance and resilience. Our collaboration with RCMRD is a prime example of how we can partner effectively to catalyze innovations and achieve development goals.
The CS added, "As you may all be aware there have been several reviews and publications showing the critical importance that space science and earth observations can play in virtually all the 17 SDGs. In addition, the capacity developed to acquire, analyze and utilize earth observation data and geospatial information to support SDG implementation can provide our member States and other regions with increased opportunities to use data to enrich policy."
Besides importance to SDGs, the Government of Kenya considers earth observations and space science products and applications as critical in implementing its Big Four Agenda, more specifically in agriculture and food security as well as ensuring access to decent shelter by all Kenyans. "In all these endeavors, land remains a critical resource. Sustainable management of land and land based resources can only be enhanced by understanding it better through mapping and the appropriate policy interventions. I would like to reaffirm the commitment of the Government of Kenya to supporting our Centre (RCMRD) together with the other member States because the reasons for its founding seem even more pertinent now than they were four decades ago when it was established."
Rwanda High Commissioner to Kenya, Mr. James Kimonyo in a speech read on his behalf by a representative said the theme of the Conference, ‘Space Science for Sustainable Development’ was timely and most appropriate. “It addresses RCMRD member States in particular and Africa’s most pressing needs – namely accelerating the pace of poverty reduction, narrowing income gaps by increasing labor productivity and generating more decent and productive jobs.” He added that the critical imperatives can only be achieved by strengthening Africa’s implementation of SDGs.
The RCMRD Director-general Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza said the conference was a platform meant to bridge the gap between science and policy, promote innovation and sharing of technological experience and knowledge. “The theme for #RIC 2018 is Space Science for Sustainable Development, and we do hope to learn more about how to align our services with SDGs.”
He emphasized to RIC 2018 delegates, that the conference was an important opportunity to make new contacts, exchange ideas and find new collaborations. "It is my hope that this 3-day event will be valuable to your career and also to the community of stakeholders that you serve. Once again, I extend a warm hand of welcome to all of you to explore in depth the services that the Centre offers, and to purpose to make use of those services."
The conference, he said offers an opportunity to interact with great minds from other re-known institutions, companies and agencies providing products and services in the geo-information field. "For instance, I bet you will find it valuable to engage with our partners from NASA, ESRI, Digital Globe, Trimble, Deimos Imaging, ISK and others. I wish you an exciting time at RCMRD, and also in Nairobi, Kenya, and hope to see you again next year for the RIC 2019."