Agriculture has always been a lifeline for Kenya and much of Africa. Even though with age, Kenya has made a mark in various spheres such as tourism and has progressed in the manufacturing sector especially under the Kenya Government's Big 4 Agenda, but agriculture still remains one of the key drivers of the economy. As a contribution towards the attainment of the Government's Big 4 Agenda, RCMRD is training 10 Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) staff, on GIS & Remote Sensing. The training commenced on on January 13 to January 24, 2020. The training was co-funded by KMD and The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) of the United Kingdom. The training will enable the targeted officers to implement an on-going Project on Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE). In line with its mandate to strengthen member States and stakeholders’ capacity through generation, application and dissemination of geo-information and allied technologies for sustainable development the Regional Centre For Mapping Resource For Development (RCMRD) staff developed a course for KMD on Use of Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) for Disease/Pest Risk monitoring. The curriculum for this course was designed jointly by RCMRD, KMD and CABI with the aim of providing an overview of the use of spatial information in Pest Risk management. In his welcoming remarks, RCMRD Director General Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza said the course aimed at providing an overview of the use of spatial information in pest risk management. He urged the course participants to utilize the new information acquired in solving pest and other risks encountered in Kenya. This training will not only explain what spatial data is and how it is collected, but also emphasizes on the use of the data during pre-and post pest-risk management. "We expect that after this training you will either pass on the information to farmers in the field or through other networks so that pests like the fall army worm and the locust invasion can be managed." Dr. Nkurunziza added that the training was in line with RCMRD's mandate to strengthen the member States and our stakeholders’ capacity through generation, application and dissemination of geo-information and allied technologies for sustainable development. He noted that the reason for the training was the exposure of many regions to natural hazards with unique characteristics. With their causes being, possibly, as a result of the frequency of extreme hydro-meteorological events related to climate change and an increase in a vulnerable population; it is, therefore, important to equip meteorologists on how to provide the data needed to manage these events. During the official opening of this training at RCMRD, KMD's Mr. Daniel Wepukhulu said the Pest Risk Information Service (PEST) is sponsored by a UK Consortium. It aims to improve the livelihood of small holder-farmers by reducing crop losses caused by pest across six sub-Sahara African countries, including Ghana,Kenya,Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia. He added that KMD is a key implementing partner in Kenya because Weather and Climate parameters play a key role in pest behaviour, including emergence/outbreak; dispersion and control efforts.
Mr. Wepukhulu added that KMD's strategy was to facilitate access to quality meteorological and spatial data to her stakeholders, including being a PRISE Project implementer, to deploy effective and efficient technology that ensure accurate, timely, relevant and accessible data and weather/climate services. Upon completion of the training, participants were expected to be able to: describe and utilize spatial data, geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing in pest risk assessment and management, utilize existing sources of historical pest risk information, apply GIS/remote sensing in vulnerability and pest risk assessment, utilize pest risk information in emergency preparedness planning and visualize pest hazard and pest risk information as well as apply GIS/remote sensing to pre & post-pest risk damage assessment. The participants acquired hands-on skills in the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) as a tool to capture, store, analyze, manage, and visualize pest risk cases data that is geographically linked. This course was delivered by our seasoned trainers who have vast experience as expert professionals in the respective fields of practice. The course was taught through a mix of practical activities, theory, group works and case studies. Upon successful completion of the two week course, participants were issued with a certificate in a closing ceremony presided by Prof. John Kiema the Director of Technical Services at RCMRD, Mr. Kenneth Thiongo the Deputy Director in charge of Applications at KMD and Dr. Daniel Karanja the Deputy Director in charge of Development in Africa at CABI. Dr. Karanja said PRISE is a novel project using Earth Observation data, on the ground weather data and pest and crop observation data to develop models to predict future crop pest risk for small scale farmers. He added, "PRISE is glad to offer support to the KMD in its upskilling of quality staff and look forward to the ongoing relationship with KMD and RCMRD within this project and beyond." Dr. Karanja also acknowledged the partnership saying, "Partnerships such as this - bringing sectors such as agriculture and meteorology - are vitally important as we look to address Kenya and the world's most pressing challenges of climate change, risk to our people and ensuring we are best equipped to tackle these head on.