Workshop on the Role of Earth System Observations in Environmental Policy Support – Africa

As part of the wider GOFC-GOLD program effort to promote use of Earth observations in advancing scientific knowledge, START has been leading an effort to explore priority knowledge and capacity needs related to the utilization of Earth observations in environmental policy and governance support in Africa.

START coordinated six case studies led by thought leaders from five countries in Africa on current use, and the potential for future use, of Earth observations in policy formulation and implementation in Africa. Case study authors came together with representatives from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, US universities, the US Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) and AfriGEOSS to take part in a scoping workshop held by START on December 4-5, 2014.

The objective of these two activities combined was to help broaden understanding of the role of Earth observations in strengthening environmental policy and governance in Africa and knowledge and capacity needs related thereto. The African institutions that were represented included the African Association of Remote Sensing of The Environment (ARSSE), University of Ibadan, LocateIT, Swaziland National Trust Commission (University of Swaziland) and the West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL).

The two-day workshop was preceded with a work visit by the case study authors to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (NCWCP) where they attended briefing sessions on Earth Observations – Application in precipitation/flash flood and drought monitoring in Africa.

Click here to download conference program Click here to browse pictures

For more information about the workshop and case studies contact Senay Habtezion at


The invited presentations, case study summaries and discussions that took place during the Workshop on: “the Role of Earth System Observations in Environmental Policy Support – Africa” on December 4-5, 2014 in Washington served as the basis for the following extracts of workshop recommendations:

  • Research and technical and institutional capacity in Earth observations as well as investments in geospatial infrastructure across countries in Africa need to be scaled up and better coordinated. Such knowledge and capacity development efforts need to be fostered through establishment of networks and communities of practice and targeted research and development investments.
  • There is a need to assess the state of enabling environment (regulatory and policy tools) on the various applications of Earth observations. Adoption of overarching national space (or related) policy at the country level, to guide the development of regulatory tools and mechanisms for geospatial technology adoption, diffusion and application for environmental policy support across the region, is essential. Where such policies exist, they need to be updated, as appropriate, to address a wide range of space technology issues, including access to space services and data sharing.
  • African countries need to develop National Spatial Data Infrastructures (NSDIs) – by putting in place NSDIs, countries can help set up a system for data sharing among public, private, non-profit sectors and the academia. This would also help increase access to data that may be useful for other sectors while simultaneously reducing the costs associated with geospatial data collection.
  • Most of the human and economic cost from hydrometeorological disasters is due to a lack of adequate warning and preparation – there is a huge potential for Earth observations to save lives, livelihoods and ecosystems. To make their application more useful, there is a strong imperative to enhance collection, preservation, sharing and dissemination of in-situ data, which is helpful for validation and calibration of satellite datasets and products, thereby adding value to the usefulness of Earth observations in informing policy. Equally important, there is a need to present Earth observation products and services in user-friendly forms.
  • Earth observations can play a key role in monitoring cross-boundary potential environmental disputes (e.g. forest fires, riparian water flow). Such uses have peace building co-benefits and need to be scaled up.
  • There is an increasing interest and need for every country to have open data policy – data access and sharing is at the heart of critical research that is needed to guide environmental and natural resource management and may, therefore, need regional, even international attention.
  • The research community needs to increase its ‘sell’ of impacts; i.e. demonstrate and showcase success stories in the use and application of Earth observation technologies for environmental and development policy support.
  • The complexity of Earth processes and uncertainties inherent in research often lend themselves to very technical presentation of findings. Even so, there must be a change in the way geospatial scientists communicate their data and research to policy makers. There is a need for communicating findings in simpler forms than the scientific community has been able to deliver. In this regard, training programmes in science communication and similar modalities such as science-policy dialogues should be encouraged.
  • A paradigm shift is needed towards a more systemic approach in Africa in the use of Earth observations across the environmental policy cycle (problem identification, formulation, implementation, control and evaluation of policy). Earth observations are already being used in the detection of environmental problems in many countries in the region (e.g. forest fires in Swaziland, gas flaring in Nigeria) as well as formulation of policy to address these problems. There is a need to scale up use of geospatial technologies in the monitoring and evaluation of existing environmental policy regimes.
  • Combined with remotely sensed data and imagery, customary practices, knowhow and innovations of indigenous and local communities could enhance environmental policy and governance and, therefore, need to be considered across the policy continuum.
  • There is a need to cultivate and promote champions by enhancing awareness campaigns for policy and decision makers and communicating their successes. There is a need to work with and promote actors who can operate in the Earth observations – environmental policy nexus and move conversations forward.
  • There are currently multiple programs and activities geared towards enhancing Earth observation technology and application across the region. There is a need for ensuring synergy and complementarity across these initiatives so as to make these investments worthwhile by avoiding duplication of effort, expertise and infrastructure.

Workshop Presentations

Rainfall Estimation from Satellite Data
Bob Kuligowski – NOAA/NESDIS/Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR)
Download Presentation

Operational Satellites for Weather, Climate, Lund and Socio Economic Services
Felix Kogan – NOAA/NESDIS/Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR)

LCLUC Program Support of GOFC-GOLD: Focus on Africa
Garilk Gutman, Land-Cover/Land-Use Change Program – NASA
Download Presentation

The Role of Earth Observations in Environmental Policy Support: Africa – Objectives and Expectations
Senay Habtezion, START
Download Presentation

Earth Observation and Public Access to Spatial Information: A new Paradigm for Africa
Nagaraja Rao Harshadeep (Harsh) – Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice, The World Bank
Download Presentation

AfriGEOSS Initiative: Enhancing the relevance of Earth Observations in decision making
Andiswa Mlisa and Hans-Peter Plag (GEO Secretariat, Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute (MARI) -Old Dominion University
Download Presentation

SERVIR in Africa: Capacity building in Earth Observations
Albert Anoubon Momo – Global Climate Change Office, USAID
Download Presentation

Current and Potential Role of Earth of Earth Observations in Environmental Policy – Challenges and Opportunities
Jide Kufoniyi, African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE)
Download Presentation

Improving Ecosystem Services for Safe Water Delivery Implementing Riparian Buffer Zone Policy in the White Volta River Basin of Ghana
Barry Boubackar, West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL).
Download Presentation

Role of Earth Observation in Environmental (Forest Fire) Policy Support: Swaziland
Wisdom Dlamini – Nature Conservation and National Parks, Swaziland National Trust Commission
Download Presentation

NASA’s activities to build capacity to use Earth Observations for societal benefit
Nancy Searby, Applied Sciences Program / NASA
Download Presentation

The US National Plan for Civil Earth Observations and US GEO
Nancy Searby, Applied Sciences Program / NASA on behalf of USGEO / OSTP – the White House
Download Presentation

The Role of Earth System Observations in Environmental Governance in Nigeria
Ibidun Adelekan
Download Presentation

The Role of Earth System Observations in Environmental Governance – Kenya
Erick Khamala, LocateIT Ltd
Download Presentation

Last Updated on December 22nd, 2014




Of Interest