i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Archive for the ‘Disaster management’ Category

GRACE abounds!

Posted by Simon Adebola on July 1, 2010

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are to continue their collaboration on the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission on till 2015. Full story here

Data from NASA's GRACE satellites helps gauge groundwater fluctuations in northwestern India and elsewhere. (National Geographic Society Website)

Image courtesy Trent Schindler and Matt Rodell, NASA

Results from this mission have proven invaluable in tracking the amount of underground water, ice, and global sea levels. This is of key essence in preparing for hazards related to water shortages, rising sea levels, and ocean currents. It is also important that scienctists and researchers on the African continent take advantage of such data to develop intelligent systems that would help guide the development of climate adaptation, disaster preparedness, and mitigation efforts. The role of international cooperation, capacity building, and financial support is very crucial here. Efforts should also be made to engage communities proactively, and empower them to cope with these foreseeable challenges.

More on GRACE here

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Disaster management, Drought, Earth observation, Global Security, India, NASA, Satellites, Science, Space science and technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dust Panic

Posted by Simon Adebola on April 12, 2010

Satellite images captured the flow of dust storms that were responsible for hazy conditions across parts of West and Central Africa in Mid March 2010. The image shown below shows the dust storms as they spread from the Red Sea right across the continent, and extend till the Atlantic Ocean.

Dust storm across Africa (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

News reports across Nigeria, where there were hazy conditions in many parts of the country, attributed the dust storms to climate change. Other countries affected include Cameroon, Chad and Niger. African countries need to invest in advanced meteorological practices to better prepare and inform their citizenry, and to avoid panic and undue speculation when untoward weather events arise. Misinformation can take a toll on the economic livelihood of the nation.

Development of space capabilities and the use of space imagery and its derived value-added products can help enhance the knowledge-based economy that many African nations currently strive for. Indeed the rise of technological advantage as an integral part of economic intelligence lays the responsibility of integrating technology-based knowledge and forecasting into the practice of aspects of human endeavour like health, agriculture, transport, governance etc.

More dust scenes:
DUST OFF THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA
SAHARAN DUST STORM

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Development, Disaster management, Earth observation, Education, Health, Satellites, Science, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

African Resource Management Satellite (ARMC) Constellation

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 21, 2009

The African Resource Management Constellation (ARMC), a collaboration currently involving Nigeria, South Africa Kenya, and Algeria. Initially conceived around 2004, when it was named the African Resource and Environmental Management Satellite Constellation, the initiative was meant to develop a constellation of satellites to provide real time, unrestricted and affordable access to satellite data to support effective environmental and resource management in Africa. Three meetings held in May 2005 in Algeria, September 2005 in Stellenbosch, RSA, and November 2005 in Abuja, Nigeria, demonstrated the commitment and momentum at the early stages of the project. During this period, a steering committee was formed and a plan of action developed to move the process forward. Other workshops held in Algeria in 2006, Pretoria, RSA in 2007 and in Kenya in 2008. These with the international awareness generated by the initiative, all helped to lay a good foundation for its success. The space agreement on the African Resources Management Satellite Constellation (ARMC), which is a Memorandum of Understanding between the partners, was signed by the governments of the four countries on the 7th of December 2009 during the Third African Leadership Conference on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development that held in Algiers, Algeria.

Signing of the ARMC Space Agreement, 7th December 2009 in Algiers, Algeria (Source: Algerian Space Agency)

As proposed, the constellation would help provide easy access to satellite data for end users in the following fields: disaster management, food security, public health, infrastructure, land use, and water resource management. It would thus support activities such as urban development, land use monitoring, and mapping for the surveillance of climate change effects. A constellation design was adopted that would have each satellite equipped with a 2.5m resolution panchromatic imager and a 5m resolution multispectral imager in 6 multispectral bands. Data from these identical satellites would be gotten through an integrated ground station. From the ground station, efforts would be made to ensure that the satellite data reach the end users all over the continent, as close to real time as possible.The program would also include capacity building initiatives and the development of low-cost multi-source ground receiving stations to aid the less privileged countries who can gain access through these stations to remote sensing and meteorological satellite data.

Algeria launched its first satellite, Alsat 1 in 2002 as part of the UK-led Disaster Management Constellation (DMC) programme. Nigeria launched its own first satellite in 2003 under the DMC programme. Both satellites were constructed by the Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, Guildford, United Kingdom. Nigeria, with Chinese support, also launched, the now failed, Nigcomsat-1 in May 2007. South Africa launched Africa’s first satellite (SunSat 1) built by the University of Stellenbosch, in February 1999. This last September it launched its second satellite, the Sumbandila Sat, aboard a Russian rocket. Although, Kenya inherited offshore launch facilities (San Marco launch platform) from the Italian space programme, it has no satellite of its own.

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Development, Disaster management, Earth observation, Humanitarian emergencies, Satellites, Science, Southern Africa, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Young South African Scientist Unraveling the Environment

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 19, 2009

Have you ever wondered how to accurately predict when it would rain and how much rain to expect? Have you ever thought that mathematics and engineering were exclusively male domains? Have you ever wondered if Africa could solve its own problems and if the upcoming generation of Africans could take the continent into the promised land? There is a ray of hope shining from the far South.

Born into a humble background, this whiz kid has risen beyond the temporal challenges of her immediate environment and through hard work and commitment has demonstrated a wide spectrum of talent and excellence. Her name is Sibusisiwe Audrey Khuluse. She is a scientist working on statistical modelling of rainfall events in the Western Cape of South Africa. She also conducts research into environmental risk assessment for extreme events. She uses statistical modelling relying on in-situ environmental data to project and assess the potential likelihood and severity of environmental events. This involves a lot of data from different sources but through computing and statistical techniques the modelling can serve to help solve questions in engineering, business, economics, health and other aspects of society. Space-based data gotten from remote environmental monitoring satellites are equally reliable sources of data for geo-statistical modelling.

Recognition for her work has come from different quarters. Sibu, as she is better known, graduated from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2007 with a honours degree in Mathematical Statistics. She is studying for a Masters in Mathematical Statistics at the University of Witwatersrand where her research work is on extreme value modelling. She is also a research statistician at the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)– Built Environment, where she works with the Statistical Modelling and Analysis Research Group. She is a recipient of a Tata Africa Scholarship to complete her Masters. This award is given to women working in areas of study that are not typically considered female domains. She has also been awarded the prestigious Mandela Rhodes Havard South Africa Fellowship. She will spend a year at Harvard from the second half of 2010. She intends to use that period to further her academic and research pursuits, while strengthening research collaborations. It will also help her to choose a suitable topic for her future PhD studies. A highly motivated and service-minded individual, Sibu represents the blend of intelligence, resourcefulness and commitment to pursuing innovative ideas, that is gradually renewing the ethos of the continent. This change is the hope for a responsible, progressive and productive future for Africa.

Her example as a high flyer, should be encouraged by governments and financially endowed individuals. The continent is laden with potential and its future, especially in the fields of science and technology, would be enhanced by greater efforts in supporting the educational pursuits of young African women and men. Research-minded individuals should be encouraged to take up opportunities across the globe. This would also help to grow research networks while building local capacity. Without a doubt, Africa’s environment is rich in resources and potential, yet it is also not immune to hazards and extreme events. It is necessary to harness the potential of technologies across the spectrum of innovation to develop our resources and empower Africans to mitigate and be prepared against disasters.

Investment in education, research and capacity building efforts all determine the seriousness, and the potential for progress and development for any system. This crucial aspect of organisational growth and socio-economic development is the bedrock for any knowledge-driven and resource efficient society. The key to development is not more money or greater funding but the optimum and efficient use of existing resources. Knowledge must thus be valued and given its rightful place as the pivot around which all other development efforts are driven. This guides the efficient use of resources; establishes authenticity, merit and genuine need as drivers of resource distribution and uptake; and sidelines corrupt, selfish and retrogressive models of governance, civil responsibility and societal development.

You can learn more about Sibu here and here.

Posted in Africa, Development, Disaster management, Earth observation, Education, Humanitarian emergencies, Innovation, Southern Africa, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Third African Leadership Conference Launches Two Regional Space Partnerships

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 19, 2009

(This information is from the United Nations Information Service Vienna Press release available here. You can also subscribe to the UN SPIDER mailing list here)

VIENNA, 7 December (UN Information Service) – The third African Leadership Conference on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development opened today, on 7 December 2009, in Algiers with a signing ceremony of two regional space partnerships. Hosted by the Algerian Space Agency and co-sponsored by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) the Conference will promote the use of space tools towards achieving Africa’s sustainable development.

To support African efforts in disaster management by means of space-based technologies, the Algerian Space Agency and UNOOSA signed a cooperation agreement to establish a regional support office for the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER), a programme implemented by UNOOSA. Space tools have been vital in mitigating the loss of lives and property in times of disaster. In that context, the head of UNOOSA’s delegation, Niklas Hedman, told conference participants that “today a large number of global and regional mechanisms and initiatives exist to support Member States in implementing the use of space tools and solutions.” With regard to UN-SPIDER’s work in forming a network of regional support offices in Africa, he noted that “UN-SPIDER already has a productive working relationship with the Algerian Space Agency”, the most recent example of which was the provision of expert services by the Agency for a UN-SPIDER technical advisory mission to Burkina Faso.

Another regional space partnership was sealed today among the Governments of Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, who signed an agreement on African Resources Management satellite constellation, a regional initiative that aims to develop a network of satellites to make space technology more accessible to end-users in areas such as food security, environmental monitoring, land use, water management and public health. The Algerian Minister for Post and Information Technologies and Communication, Hamid Bessalah, described the all-African satellite constellation as “a great cooperation” between the four countries, which “will facilitate space data for African countries”.

The third African Leadership Conference on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development will continue its deliberations on increasing space benefits for Africa’s sustainable development until Wednesday, 9 December 2009.

* *** *

For further information, please contact:

Jamshid Gaziyev
Associate Programme Officer, UNOOSA
Telephone: (+43-699) 1459-7251
Email: jamshid.gaziyev@unoosa.org
Internet: http://www.unoosa.org

Posted in Africa, Development, Disaster management, Earth observation, Humanitarian emergencies, Satellites, Southern Africa, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Is Africa Under The Weather?

Posted by Simon Adebola on February 3, 2008

The challenge of bringing about change on the African continent has been affected by various compounding factors. The political and leadership situation, poverty, education, healthcare and other socio-economic factors have long been issues of concern. These are worsened by the various wars and resultant humanitarian crises that have ensued over the last four decades. As the continent has progressed through these and kept up its unerring pursuit for peace and relief, seeking to make its way out of the maze, their still remains another major issue threatening to weaken these survival efforts. It is the issue of the effects of global warming and climate change and their impact on African development.

A look at the executive summary of the section on Africa in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change shows grim forecasts for the continent based on their review of research conducted into the likely impacts of observed trends and the confidence levels of these forecasts. I would like us to consider a brief excerpt from this report and look at how we could use space science and technology in mitigating these potential adverse effects. It must be noted that the application of SST serves Africa well, be it utilized as a pre-emptive or developmental tool, so the aim really is to bring on board the necessary tools for development and not to ‘scare’ people.
– Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change and climate vulnerability, a situation aggravated by interaction of ‘multiple stresses’, occurring at various levels, and low adaptive capacity (high confidence)
– African farmers have developed several adaptation measures to cope with current climate variability, but such adaptations may not be sufficient for future changes of climate (high confidence)
– Agricultural production and food security (including access to food) in many African countries and regions are likely to be severely compromised by climate change and climate variability (high confidence).
– Climate change will aggravate the water stress currently faced by some countries, while some countries that currently do not experience water stress will become at risk of water stress (very high confidence).
– Changes in a variety of ecosystems are already been detected, particularly in Southern African ecosystems, at a faster rate than anticipated (very high confidence).
– Climate variability and change could result in low-lying lands being inundated, with resultant impacts on coastal settlements (high confidence).
– Human health, already compromised by a range of factors, could be further negatively impacted by climate change and climate variability, e.g., malaria in southern Africa and the East African highlands (high confidence).

With the phenomenal losses being faced by various countries all over the globe as a result of disasters caused by natural hazards and other effects of climate change, the use of earth observation satellites as sources of crucial information at every stage of the disaster management cycle is becoming standard practice. The disaster management cycle, with successive phases of response, recovery, mitigation and preparation, is made more effective by utilizing SST at each phase. Hazards such as floods, droughts, soil erosion, coastal erosion, landslides, earthquakes, fires, oil spills and other geological and climatic hazards could be predicted and effectively monitored with earth observation satellites. The role of remote sensing satellites if maximized would result in the saving of lives and prevent the loss of billions of dollars being annually incurred. Also the role of landscape ecology and landscape epidemiology in the areas of environmental conservation and healthcare has huge potentials in sounding warning signals and also in monitoring the impact of mitigation measures.

An effective response to disaster is greatly dependent on the existence of a sound telecommunications infrastructure. With widely dispersed rural communities, the coverage needed in Africa can best be gotten by telecommunications satellites which would serve as a backbone for dispatching and coordination relief efforts and in educating farmers in rural communities on current adaptation measures and best practice in coping with agricultural challenges. This has been successfully practised in India. The opportunities are numerous but the need to develop these systems and integrate them into ongoing efforts would better prepare the continent to handle the challenges posed by global warming and climate change.

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Disaster management, Space science and technology | 1 Comment »