Capacity Building and Training on Lidar Data Applications

Capacity Building on Rwanda National Crop Monitor

Whereas different information systems exist in Rwanda, a short summary on the crop conditions for decision makers is lacking. SERVIR E&SA in conjunction with the University of Maryland has been promoting regional and national implementation of the crop monitors for agricultural decision making.

While SERVIR E&SA’s overarching goal focuses on assisting developing countries improve environmental management and resilience to climate change by strengthening the capacity of governments and other key stakeholders to integrate Earth Observation information and geospatial technologies into development decision-making, the University of Maryland's (UMD) crop monitor collaborators goal is enhancing the availability of food production information within the context of commodities markets and early warning of production shortfalls.

Successful implementation in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya has improved monitoring and reporting of crop conditions through the combination of field data, earth observation data and expert knowledge. This has led to an interest in implementation of national crop monitors in Rwanda where the lack of a clear synthesis and development of a report for rapid assessment of crop conditions and other critical in season information precipitated the need for a National Crop Monitor.

The planned implementation of the Rwanda National Crop Monitor will allow for development of synthesis reports drawing information from existing sources and data collection systems such as the MIS (Management Information System), Smart Nkunganire and the Agricultural Land Information System (ALIS). This will allow for development of a timely, accurate and regular actionable information tool, provide a soft copy report that integrates data from different sources, reduce duplication of efforts in crop monitoring, and allow for structured engagements with critical partners and projects.

The national crop monitor capacity building sought to build the capacity of key selected technical officers in the application of Earth Observation (EO) data for crop conditions monitoring. The workshop build the capacity of selected participants in application of EO for crop conditions assessment and reporting. Pre-selected participants attended a five-day intensive training workshop consisting of hands-on training in crop conditions assessment using satellite and field data as well as national assessment report and readily available weather/climate data.

Experts from UMD and RCMRD delivered the training. Participants for the training were drawn from MINAGRI, Rwanda Meteo and RAB (Rwanda Agricultural Board). The training focused on discussing the implementation of the Rwanda National Crop Monitor, identifying regional champions to spearhead the process and identifying existing information sources that can contribute to the bulletin. Further, the training focused on building the capacity of the participants on application of Earth observation information for crop conditions monitoring using the GLAM portal, the EWX and the crop monitor portal. Successful implementation of a regional and national crop monitor system, that allow integration of data from existing sources, to provide synthesized briefs for decision makers, has prompted the request for downscaling crop monitoring systems.

20 officers were equipped with practical skills in crop conditions assessment using satellite data from the Global Agriculture Monitoring System (GLAM). They were also trained on using the crop monitor interface for assessing, interpreting and reporting crop conditions by combining EO assessments with field reports. The participants were further trained on synthesis of crop monitor information to develop actionable information in a bulletin as well as developing a roadmap for implementation of the Rwanda National crop monitor.

During the training, they discussed reporting timelines, defined roles and reporting structures, bulletin information composition and formats, customizations (reporting boundaries, priority crops, aesthetics etc.). The participants also discussed about the development of a bulletin template and field reporting template. Strengthened practical skills in crop assessments using novel tools for timely reporting on the status of agricultural crops and streamlined crop conditions reporting and synthesis for decision making are expected of the participants after the training undertaken last week between March 4 and 8.

The five-day workshop comprised of presentations, extensive hands-on practical sessions, group discussions and experience sharing by participants. Pre- and post- workshop evaluations were conducted, and further training needs assessed. UMD has been promoting regional and national implementations of the crop monitors for agricultural decision making. The monitors provide an easy to use interface for combining earth observation datasets with other sources of information and generating maps on crop conditions at defined boundaries. The Monitors provide the countries and regions the flexibility to define their monitoring administrative boundaries, priority crops, reporting metrics; and provides their implementers with an easy to use interface for reporting the crop conditions and the drivers of other than favorable conditions.

The crop conditions determined through field observations and satellite data are combined with monthly and seasonal weather forecasts to provide an outlook for the season’s production. The information is then synthesized into bulletins with narratives and maps for internal decision making and dissemination to stakeholders. The training was led by Dr. Catherine Nakalembe and Dr. Jan Dempewolf from UMD in collaboration with RCMRD/SERVIR staff Lilian Ndungu the Thematic Lead Agriculture and Food Security and Stephen Sande the Technical Expert Agriculture and Food Security.

Using Satellite Imagery to Improve Implementation of Crop Insurance Program in Kenya

Though geo-information technologies have been around for long, quantifying the actual value of geo-information technologies in our day to day lives remains one of the key challenges. For a long time, and as is with any insurance cover, identification of the right beneficiaries that require a pay-out was a daunting task. Initially, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation(MOALFI), had to compile a list of all farmers who have grown the maize crop in a season, then identify randomly sampled farms for crop cutting for yield estimation. Given the geographical scope of Kenya and maize being a staple crop, this activity was time consuming, tedious, prone to bias in farmer selection, not to mention the financial costs.
From 2016, the ministry decided to partner with  The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development(RCMRD), through the SERVIR East and Southern Africa project (SERVIR ESA); to utilize the capabilities of Geo-information technologies to support the implentation crop insurance.  RCMRD/SERVIR ESA developed a semi-automated methodology that can single out the in season cropland, using satellite imagery, and generate randomly sampled farms to inform the crop cutting process for yield assessment. This, according to Mr. Tom Dienya, from the statistics unit in the State Department of Crops Development(SDCD), has resulted in a 70% reduction in sampling costs per  in sampling out maize farmers to carry out crop assessments. The sampling frame also reduces the time and manpower required to do sampling in a county. So far, the ministry is implementing the program in 20 counties within Kenya, with a planned addition of seven counties in 2019.  
In a recently concluded workshop on GIS based sampling frame conducted from 11th to 15th February 2019, the participants, who were drawn from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation (MOALFI), State Department of Crops Development (SDCD) were taken through a hands-on training focusing on application of geo-information technologies to the Kenya government’s national program on crop insurance. The participants were trained on using GIS software to derive the unit areas of insurance, sampling frame, sampling points, map production and interpretation. An introductory session on image interpretation was also done . The training was led by Mr. Stephen Sande and Ms. Grace Koech. The participants who were previously using hand drawn maps to delineate unit areas of insurance(UAIS) , lauded the GIS technologies saying that this will improve their efficiency and improve delineation of the UAIs. The participants will support the development of Unit Areas of Insurance during the 2019 Long Rains Season using skills gained from the Training. The participants also provided valuable input that will inform the development of the sampling frames and maps for the oncoming season. 

2019 Edition of AFREF and GNSS Data Processing Training

A multitude of different datums, different ellipsoids and different projections, confusion within countries as to appropriate datums, projections and transformations to use, confusion and delays in cross-border projects including transport corridors, mapping projects, conservation and environment, exploitation of mineral resources and confusion and conflict regarding international borders.

Consequently, the African Geodetic Reference Frame (AFREF) was conceived as a unified geodetic reference frame for Africa to be the fundamental basis for the national and regional three-dimensional reference networks fully consistent and homogeneous with the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF).

AFREF was established as a continental reference system as a basis for national reference networks. It was also established as a permanent GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) base stations such that users will be within 500km of a base station and that data is freely available to all users. It is also meant to realize a unified vertical datum and to support efforts to establish a precise African geoid. 

The 2019 edition of AFREF and GNSS Data Processing Training was held at RCMRD premises between March 4 and 8, 2019 with over 60 participants from across Africa. RCMRD is mandated to coordinate the implementation of the AFREF project. The training was supported by various firms such as Trimble, Leica, TOPcon, ComNav Technology, Measurements systems, SinoGNSS, OAKAR services and SEGAL.

The purpose of the course was to provide technical skills in the establishment of AFREF and National Real Time GNSS Networks, installation of CORS, handling, dissemination and processing of GNSS data. AFREF has been held in September in previous years but was held in March which was agreed upon by partners from this year onward.

The trainees were Land surveyors, Geodesist, Engineers, Researchers and Cartographers from African countries with some experience in Global Navigation satellite System (GNSS) technologies. The course covered: AFREF Concepts and progress; Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Technologies; Establishment of Continuously Operating GNSS Reference Systems (CORS), and National Real Time GNSS Networks (NRTN); GNSS Augmentation Systems and Availability in Africa; Reference systems, AFREF, datum and Coordinate systems & transformations; Practical field work on Static GNSS surveys, RTK surveys using Base/Rover, and RTK surveys using CORS as well as Practical GNSS data post processing and reporting using open source software.

The one week workshop instilled skills on data collection using different data collecting systems, and post processing of the data on the trainees who were mostly land surveyors, engineers, lecturers, and data collectors. In his opening remarks, Director General RCMRD Director General Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza said, "I encourage individuals from different countries to advice policy makers to use modern technology as far as survey measurements is concerned." The main areas covered were on Global Navigation Satellite Systems Technologies on data collection and data processing, and the aim, effects, and the structure of AFREF in Africa.

The participants heard that, AFREF aims at harmonizing geodetic systems from neighbouring countries into one reference system, i.e. from local reference system to global reference system. Moreover, it also unifies vertical controls in the region. To achieve this, GNSS base stations require to be established such that users are within 500km from a particular base station.

In Africa, there are countries that have established GNSS base stations such as Kenya Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana, and Ethiopia. With these, a data collector Kenya can be connected to a Continuously Operating Reference System (CORs) in any African state. In the workshop, other member States of RCMRD were urged to advice their policy makers on the need to establish GNSS base stations in partnership and assistance from RCMRD.

Giving the status of implementation, Mr. Muya Kamamia the Principal Geomatic Officer at RCMRD said that presently, 22 Countries had established GNSS permanent stations, more than 50 permanent stations are sending data to AFREF data holding centre, some countries have CORS networks including South Africa, Botswana, Rwanda and Namibia while most member States have carried out feasibility studies to establish AFREF with the support of RCMRD. He also said some countries were currently implementing AFREF via World Bank support and they include Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia. He also said other countries had resources from their national funds including Botswana and Kenya.

Muya said when fully implemented, AFREF would consist of a network of CORS such that a user anywhere in Africa would have free access to including the generated data. On the way forward, the workshop concluded that there was need for more publicity for the AFREF initiative, while more commitment was required from Countries through their National Mapping Organizations as well as the need for capacity building (manpower and equipment at national level) and support from international partners. It was also agreed that there was need to build capacity in AFREF data holding & analysis centres as well as computing first official AFREF Coordinates.

It was also agreed that AFREF and CORS networks shall be used in all applications requiring positioning and mapping including; Topographical mapping, cadastral mapping, precision farming, civil aviation, asset tracking & monitoring, monitoring earth crustal movement, weather forecasting and construction via automation.

Regional Training Workshop on Applied Hydro-Climate Services in Tanzania

An ongoing partnership between RCMRD/SERVIR-ESA project and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) has improved the use of hydrological and climate data, information and web services to solve development problems in the Eastern and Southern Africa region.

Mr. Dennis Macharia, the SERVIR E&SA Weather and Climate Lead at RCMRD noted that “Data and skills are the two most critical needs of a hydro meteorologist in order to successfully accomplish his or her duties." He added, "In our region, accessing data can be a challenge, and when it is possible, still requires expertise. Our partnership with UCSB and hydro met service agencies in the E&SA regions addresses these challenges quite remarkably." Several training workshops have been completed in the region with the main objective of these training workshops being to provide hands-on training using case studies from the region on access to hydrological and climate based satellite earth observation and model data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and regional agencies, water availability monitoring and modelling, climate scenario modelling, and crop weather index insurance analysis.

Over the last two and a half years, UCSB has been working with RCMRD to enhance access to remote sensing datasets, models and tools that can improve regional hydro climate applications/analyses and ultimately, aiding decision making. One national workshop was held in Kenya in 2017 followed by two regional workshops held in Tanzania and Zambia in 2018 with a group of participants from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia. Participants were mainly drawn from hydro-meteorological services. In the third and final joint regional workshop organized with support from the University of Maryland (UMD) and UCSB who are both SERVIR-Applied Sciences Team (AST) grantees took place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from February 27 to March 1, 2019. A core group trained in the other two workshops have demonstrated utility of datasets and skills transferred to them. This project benefits both the trainees and the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Climate Hazards Center (CHC) through the reciprocal nature of collaborative training. The trainees were introduced to advanced EOs and web services, and the CHC comprehends the existing needs and challenges in the application of EOs and web services. Mr. Macharia, the activity lead and Mr. Patrick Kabatha a GIT Technical Expert attended the workshop and facilitated at the training.

The joint training brought together a core group of participants who attended the previous trainings in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia and demonstrated useful practical use of the datasets and skills transferred to them. There was a second group of participants drawn from the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA). This group has been working with UMD in implementing the Tanzania Crop monitor together with UMD. In addition to the Agriculture Ministry staff and the regional hydro-meteorologists, RCMRD and her partners added two female participants who joined in the “Rwanda Women in Vulnerability Assessments” workshop held in Kigali in January this year to increase the participation of women in science activities as an approach to implement the SERVIR- ESA gender strategy. The benefits of such trainings span the breadth of the CHC widespread network of affiliates and partners.



























In the last five years, the UCSB team has produced a consistent rainfall data set and recently, an analogous temperature data set. Both data sets support analyses that are proving useful in addressing developmental challenges in the E&SA countries. The partnership is also providing key skills that are necessary to realizing maximum potential in the use of the data sets, training technical users in different applied skills like climate seasonal scenarios development and hydrological modeling.