Enabling discovery of African geospatial resources

Author(s): Giuliani, G., Papeschi, F., Mlisa, A., Lacroix, P., Marcel, A., Santoro, M., Nonguierma, A., Cools, J., and Y.Guigoz
South-Eastern European Journal Issue of Earth Observation and Geomatics, 2015, vol. 4, no. 1S, p. 1-16


Abstract: In Africa, natural resources are degrading, while being at the same time essential for maintaining or improving people’s livelihood. The well-being of African communities is highly correlated to changes in local ecosystem services. Their vulnerability to degradation of natural resources is extremely high and resilience against natural changes (e.g. climate variability) and socio-economic changes (e.g. fluctuations in food markets) is low. Nowadays, it is widely accepted that reversing these trends and adapting to climate change require integrated responses tackling the underlying social, economic, political and institutional drivers of unsustainable use of natural resources. Integrated approaches intrinsically ask for cooperation, exchange of information and communication to better understand complex interactions and assess environmental issues.

Understanding these interactions requires collecting and integrating various data describing physical, chemical, biological and socio-economic conditions. However, two common obstacles are currently preventing the implementation of such integrated approaches: (1) difficulties to find data, and (2) difficulties to integrate data.

In response to these issues, this paper presents the Africa Discovery Broker, a web-based tool that enables users working in different domains to search through and access 32442 heterogeneous African geospatial resources (e.g. remote sensing, geospatial data, socio- economic data) coming from 17 international, regional, national and research projects repositories.

East Africa: Protected area data management online resource launched for users

The Biodiversity and Protected Areas (BIOPAMA,  http://www.biopama.org) programme recently convened a Technical Training Workshop at the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in Nairobi, Kenya from 21-22 July 2015. The aim of the workshop was to introduce the program and present the EAC Regional Reference Information System (RRIS) to participants from the EAC Partner States with the purpose of obtaining feedback on how to improve the features, functionality and content to meet the needs of the region; to develop a schema for a refined workflow or decision support tool to easily access the required data and information; to identify obstacles to data sharing and opportunities and to promote data sharing and finally to define the workflow for submitting data for inclusion into the RRIS.

The EAC RRIS displays maps and supporting information about biodiversity values, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, species and habitats, pressures and threats, and management and governance and was developed by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC) within the framework of the BIOPAMA Programme.

The workshop was attended by 30 participants drawn from natural resources, environment, science and technology to mining, energy, agriculture, forestry and museum sectors from Partner States. In addition to the hands-on experience with the EAC RRIS, participants discussed the process of using data to guide decision
making with the aim of modelling these workflows in the RRIS to ensure the technology and data support decision making and policy development. Participants also provided in-depth input on the best approach to promote the free and open exchange of data the region. A draft “Open Access Statement” was accepted as a declaration to promote free and open access to data and a draft Data Sharing Framework which will give effect to the Open Access Statement was discussed.

The EAC RRIS supports the Regional Observatory for Protected Areas whose framework was finalized recently between IUCN and the East African Community. The EAC Observatory is hosted by the East African Community Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania.

Kenya: MaMaSe partners trained in processing and sharing of GIS data

From 3 to 7 August, 26 participants from the Water Resources Management Authority, SNV, WWF, Mara Farming and Egerton University followed an intensive 5 day training on the processing of spatial data using open source software such as QGIS and GDAL. Dr. Hans van der Kwast, senior lecturer in ecohydrological modeling at UNESCO-IHE, guided the practical hands-on sessions on converting raw input data (e.g. GPS data, spreadsheets or scanned hardcopy maps) into GIS formats, geoprocessing and map design.


The participants were also introduced to the use of the MaMaSe GeoNode (http://maps.mamase.org/), a Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) portal for up-and downloading data/documents, making online maps and integration with QGIS. This allows project partners and other stakeholders to share their information on the MaMaSe GeoNode which is part of the knowledge exchange centre developed in the project. At the end of the training the participants acknowledged that with the acquired skills they are able to improve the data processing chain in their day-to-day work and learned how SDIs can be used to share data. During the 5 training days, the amount of data layers in the MaMase GeoNode had increased from 13 to 135, thanks to the efforts of the participants.

SWALIM to set up Mogadishu data centers

SWALIM in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Electricity and Water are currently setting up data centres to serve water and land resources information needs in Mogadishu. The data centers will be based in the two ministries and will be fully equipped by SWALIM. When fully operational, stakeholders in and around Mogadishu will be able to access the entire database of water and land resources information that SWALIM has recovered, produced and consolidated over the past 10 years. This data covers a wide variety of water and land topics such as rainfall, river flow, groundwater resources, land use and suitability, land cover and land degradation among others.

Somalia: Water Sources Live Map

Apart from the people living along the Juba and Shabelle Rivers, the Somali population depends on groundwater for domestic water supply, livestock and small scale irrigation. The main groundwater sources of Somalia are boreholes, shallow wells and springs.

The development of new groundwater resources in Somalia is fraught with challenges, key among them being poor water quality. The majority of groundwater sources in the country have salinity levels above 2,000μS/cm, which is over the required standard for drinking water. Many of the shallow wells are also unprotected from the elements, making them vulnerable to microbiological and other contamination.

SWALIM, the Somalia Water and Land Information Management project, has been working closely with the Somali Government Water Authorities and the United Nations’ WASH Cluster (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) in developing systems for monitoring water sources in Somalia. In 2006, the Somalia Water Sources Information Management System (SWIMS) was developed for the management of water sources data. After 8 years of use and extensive feedback from partners, in 2014 SWIMS was rebuilt from the ground up into a dynamic, graphical online system, the Water Sources Live Map. http://systems.faoso.net/imms/fmt/maps/website/227

The Somalia Water Sources Data Live Map (SWIMS-Livemap) is a web application that has features for both data management and data visualization through the internet. Agencies that manage water information can now use the live map to collect, update, and disseminate water sources data while other information users will be able to use the live map to visualize the data as well as “export” it for a variety of uses outside the live map. The live map has dramatically improved how water source information is managed in Somalia, where point water sources are the primary source of water. Through the live map, water sources information is accessible from any location, as long as there is internet connectivity. The published data is available to all users in UN agencies, NGOs and private sector users.

Cameroon: 1st International Conference on ICT for Africa Development, 4-6 January 2016, Yaounde

The aim of the ICT4AD conference, to be held by the University of Yaoundé I, Faculty of Science, Department of Computer Science, is to provide an intellectual platform for academics, industry professionals, and decision makers to actively interact and share their background, knowledge in order to foster the development of the African continent by integrating innovation into relief and development programs. The Innovation increases the quality of the service of the related programs. This conference is dedicated to promoting research and development and offers an inter-disciplinary intellectual platform for leading scientists, researchers, academics, industrial professionals and decision makers across Africa to keep in touch with their counterparts around the world.

Volta Basin: Assessment of current state of water management

Assessment of current state of water management and climate change in the Volta Basin as part of the Establishment of an Observatory for water Resources and Related Ecosystems.

To ensure that data and information are readily available for the development and management of the basin, the Volta Basin Authority (VBA, http://www.abv-volta.org:10000/abv2/) is in the process of establishing an Observatory for Water Resources and Related Ecosystems. As part of the activities, MoUs have been developed between VBA and the Ministries in charge of water in the six Volta basin Member States. In each country an Addendum to the MoU with the Ministry specifies hydrological data exchange protocols. However, protocols for technical data exchange between the Observatory and other institutions in relation to other themes such as Agricultural Water, Water-related disease and Cartography have not been developed. There is the need to develop these protocols to enhance VBA’s monitoring role. The Observatory also needs to strengthen it links with other relevant initiatives such as those of WASCAL and AGRHYMET through MoUs, joint activities and training.

The Volta HYCOS Project (now integrated into the VBA Observatory), will give momentum to activities on operational hydrology and integrate them further into socioeconomic activities and joint development projects of the basin countries. In a long-term perspective, the HYCOS/Observatory will constitute an important source of reliable data for forecasts of future water resource scenarios including regional climate change impact
predictions.