i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Archive for the ‘Earth observation’ Category

Keeping a Hand on the Pulse of Agriculture on the Continent

Posted by Simon Adebola on November 30, 2011

This post shows the use of satellite imagery to chronicle how natural and man-made events (floods, fires, and wasting droughts) contribute to the success and failure of the agricultural economy responsible for shaping and sustaining the livelihoods of millions of Africans. All images are from the NASA Earth Observatory.

Southern Africa flooding February 2011
Southern Africa flooding February 2011

Zambezi river flooding, Zambia and Namibia, February 2011
Zambezi river flooding, Zambia and Namibia, February 2011

Drought in East Africa, Image taken in January 2010,
Vegetation Anomaly (percent)
Drought in East Africa, Image taken in January 2010,

Fires in Okavango delta, Botswana, October 2010.
Fires in Okavango delta, Botswana, October 2010.

Flooded Oueme river, Benin, October 2010.
Flooded Oueme river, Benin, October 2010.

Revived and Flooded Boteti River, Botswana., September 2010.
Revived and Flooded Boteti River, Botswana., September 2010.

Bush burning, Angola and DRC, June 2010.
Bush burning, Angola and DRC, June 2010.

Flooded Pungue river, Mozambique, March 2010
Flooded Pungue river, Mozambique, March 2010

Flooding in North-central Tanzania, January 2010.
Flooding in North-central Tanzania, January 2010.

Agricultural fires across West Africa, December 2009.
Agricultural fires across West Africa, December 2009.

Fires in and around Mozambique, September 2009.
Fires in and around Mozambique, September 2009.

Flooding in West Africa, September 2009.
Flooding in West Africa, September 2009.

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Posted in Africa, Drought, Earth observation, Flooding, Humanitarian emergencies, NASA, Satellites, Southern Africa, Space science and technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Landscape Ecology: The Use of Space Imagery Off Namibia’s Coast

Posted by Simon Adebola on April 12, 2010

This article from the NASA Earth Observatory explains how the emission of hydrogen sulphide along the continental shelf off the Namibian coast can be viewed from space. It also shows the interactions between these emissions and other factors in the biosphere. The emissions follow a mix of ocean currents, geophysical dynamics, biological and chemical interplays. These however bear on the marine life in the vicinity of these emissions. Their effects, both positive and negative, are also felt far inland.

Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) captures hydrogen sulphide emissions along the Namibian coast (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

Africa’s oceans hold huge potential for the continent. Its rich ecosystems with huge stores of biodiversity treasures all count as valuable knowledge resources for the continent. It remains to be seen however how much of the continent’s wide ocean expanse would be conservatively harnessed to bring economic benefits while preserving its unique heritage.

Click here to learn more on the use of earth observation in biodiversity and ecosystems.

More images and articles (click on the images):

NASA Image of Namibian Coast

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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 »

Climate Change Effects in Nigeria

Posted by Simon Adebola on March 30, 2010

Heat, Dusty Weather Raise Health Concerns
By Tunde Akingbade

Last Monday, over 90 percent of all the flights at the nation’s airports were cancelled or delayed. There was a thick fog in the atmosphere. The visibility was poor. It was less than 500 metres and this posed danger for aircraft all over the region.

In a particular instance, a passenger aircraft that was to land in Nigeria’s airport ended up in Cotonou, Benin republic because of poor visibility, according to airport sources.

Haze in Nigeria (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)


This reporter on his way to climate change engagements in Abuja was stuck at the airport.It was similar to an incident at Schipol Airport, Amsterdam on the way to India for a United Nations Climate Change conference sometime ago. Ironically, many climate change experts going for Climate conferences are being trapped the world over by erratic weather patterns. Incidences of meningitis have been on the increase in Nigeria for the past one-year as a result of excessive heat. This year has been unbearably hot in Nigeria and other countries in Sub Saharan Africa. In Nigeria the eleven frontline states in the north that have suffered from desert encroachment have been suffering from heat related ailments.

Early last year investigations revealed that over 200 people were killed by meningitis in Nigeria and Niger Republic in one week. There were outbreaks in 76 areas. There were 25,000 suspected cases and 1, 500 deaths in the first quarter of 2009. Although meningitis is a disease caused by an infection of the meanings, which is the thin lining that surrounds the brain and the spinal chord, experts have found a correlation between the weather and this disease. It is generally known that the disease attacks more people during the dry season because of dust, wind and cold nights. There were indications in the past one month that many people were treated for acute pneumonia in some hospitals as a result of the erratic and unpredictable weather which has also confused farmers about planting seasons raising fear about food production and security.

Apart from the reign of diseases as a result of harsh weather conditions in Northern Nigeria agriculture has been affected as a result of erratic weather patterns. The dryness has led to dry waterbeds and movement of people and their pasture to the southern regions thus causing tension and conflicts between the original inhabitants and the new comers. Experts at the United Nations and other global bodies have found over the years that the world’s climate has changed.

In one of his treatise on Climate Change in Nigeria and Niger, Professor Emmanuel Oladipo, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Consultant and Nigeria/Niger Project, Niamey, confirmed that Climate change is a serious threat to efforts at poverty eradication, and sustainable development in Nigeria and Niger because the countries have large rural population directly depending on climate sensitive economic and development sectors (agriculture and fisheries).

Even in the southern states, medical experts hinted last week that cases of Tuberculosis have been on the increase.

Dr. Nath Ayo Macualay Medical Director, Macaulay Medical centre, Mushin, Lagos told The Guardian that apart from heat rashes that had been noticed amongst the populace within the period of intense heat, there has been an upsurge in Tuberculosis (TB) in the past one month.

Macaulay said that those who are at risk are those who were not immunized against TB. The Medical doctor said that when a tuberculosis patient spits on the ground, the TB virus can hang in the air for 42 days unlike other viruses such as gonorrhea that can die within one hour.

“If you breathe in the tuberculosis virus in the air through dust it very hazardous,” said Macaulay, adding that the “TB can be in the air because of a lot of dust”

Last Friday, the Federal government raised an alarm that tuberculosis is on the increase and that about one million Nigerians are afflicted by the disease.

Haze in Lagos (Photo: Femi Adebesin-Kuti)


Dr. Victor Fodeke, the Head/Designated National Authority (DNA) Special Climate Change Unit, Federal Ministry of Environment, Abuja told The Guardian in Abuja last week that the sudden change in weather at this time of the year is a very serious problem.

According to him, this is the beginning of the worst thing to expect adding that this is evidence that greenhouse gases have altered the weather patterns of the world and Nigeria in particular. Dr. Victor Nkom, climate change expert/consultant to the Federal Ministry of Environment warned in Abuja that the dusty and hazy weather would trigger certain ailments amongst the populace who were not ready for the unusual weather.

Nkom said the dust in the atmosphere would trigger droplet infection because the dust will become the medium of propagating the various viruses and bacteria that are airborne.

Fodeke regretted that policy makers all over the world have underestimated the problem of climate change. He noted that a document written by Professor Charles H. Greene, of Cornell University’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences entitled: “A Very Inconvenient Truth,” published in the peer-reviewed journal Oceanography this month concluded that the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 4th “assessment report underestimates the potential dangerous effects that man-made climate change will have on society.” Adding that “even if all man-made green house gas emission were stopped tomorrow and carbon-dioxide levels stabilized at today’s concentration, by the end of this century the global average temperature would increase by about 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 2.4 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, which is significantly above the level which scientists and policymakers agree is a threshold for dangerous climate change.” In the document, Professor Green and other co authors D. James Baker of the William J. Clinton Foundation and Daniel H. Miller of the Roda Group, Berkeley, California, USA are of the opinion that “reducing greenhouse gas emissions alone is unlikely to mitigate the risks of dangerous climate change” adding that society should significantly expand research into geo-engineering solutions that remove and sequester greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. He concluded by adding that geo-engineering solutions must be in addition to, not replace, dramatic emission reductions if society is to avoid the most dangerous impacts from climate change.”

Tunde Akingbade writes for the Guardian Newspapers in Nigeria. This report was culled from The Guardian (30-03-10)

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Drought, Earth observation, Epidemiology, Global Security, Health, Tuberculosis | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Launching the ‘African Heritage From Space’ Series: Namib Desert (AHFSS 1)

Posted by Simon Adebola on February 18, 2010

Africa is blessed with a rich social, moral and cultural heritage, there is no doubt about that. The land is also rich in bountiful stores of natural resources. It’s people however are its greatest assets and these have made their mark not only on the continent but indeed all over the globe and even in space exploration. That is Africa.

Of particular significance though, is the uniqueness and beauty of Africa’s geophysical structure. It’s breathtaking landscapes, lush greenery, magnificent forests, cascading waterfalls, gorgeous hills and mountains, “proud ancestral savannas”, and seering yet awestriking deserts, are some of the features that have made Africa the prime allure of explorers, the daring and adventurous for centuries.

The Group on Earth Observation (GEO) lists ecosystems and biodiversity as two of its themes and societal benefit areas. Space technologies can play a major role in supporting efforts at conserving the state of our environment. These efforts thus need to be augmented through the use of earth observation and other space capabilities in environmental monitoring and conservation. There is an increasing role to be played by the integration of technologies in development aims because they offer boundless opportunities to optimize resources and increase efficiency.

The ‘African Heritage from Space Series’ is being launched to connect these potentials of space technology to the God-given magnificence of Africa’s ecosystems and entire landscape. This will showcase the varied scenes of beauty that exist in different parts of the continent as seen through the eyes of space-borne instruments. Furthermore, like apples of gold in settings of silver, each image would be set within the context of what is and what could be.

The first image in this series is of the Namibian Desert and it was taken by an astronaut on Expedition 22 on the International Space Station (ISS). It is made available through the NASA Earth Observatory.

Tsauchab River and Sossus Vlei Lakebed, Namibia (NASA)

The Namibian desert extends for about 81,000 sq. km. and it is from this Namib (Nama for vast) desert that the country of Namibia gets its name. The driest desert in Africa and the oldest in the world, this richest of sources for diamonds captivates endlessly with its awestriking dunes that remind one of the Martian landscape. It has a unique blend of animal and plant varieties that make up its ecosystem. One of the most popular of these is the Welwitschia mirabilis with its single pair of leaves, existing in an order of its own. See a video of the desert and its enchanting features below.

The desert has long inspired paintings, photographs, poems, historical writings and other works of art. It has also had its fair share of scientific study. The sand dunes pictured in this image are the tallest in the world, reaching up to a height of 300 metres above river bottom. The desert however is one of the world’s driest and the future of its species, though rugged, is a concern for conservationists and environmental biologists. It is also a location for mining ventures which together with farming, if not carefully monitored, could further pose a challenge to its ecostability. It is a coastal desert that is gradually encroaching westward to reclaim land from the ocean.

You can explore the area further here

Posted in Africa, Development, Drought, Earth observation, Education, NASA, Satellites, Science, Southern Africa, Space, Space science and technology, 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 »

Space-based monitoring of Climate-sensitive diseases

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 17, 2009

There are certain infectious diseases that are said to be climate sensitive. These diseases are described thus because of the observed change in their epidemiology following the probable effects of anthropogenic global warming.

Source: National Science Foundation, USA.

Some of these diseases represent the common face of the human-vector interaction as mediated by man’s environment. They also represent a huge health and economic burden to affected populations. It is thus important, in instituting control measures to combat the spread of these diseases, that there be a functional understanding of the various environmental parameters that influence the biology of these vectors and the natural history of the diseases that they transmit. Other non vector-related occurences such as heat waves, with attendant adverse health effects, also need to be studied and predicted.

The role of space technologies is very important in monitoring and understanding the influence of environmental parameters on vector biology and disease transmission cycles. Typically, earth observation systems that routinely monitor the environment give very useful data that can be adapted for the study of vectors, their associated diseases and other climate sensitive diseases. These systems operate with sensors located in water bodies, on the earth’s surface, above the earth’s surface, in the atmosphere and in outer space. These all combine to give a continuous stream of data to inform the scientific study of the climate and how its patterns are influencing the spread of diseases. This studies involve the complex task of disease modeling to aid public health interventions in curbing the spread and effect of such diseases. Interventions include chemical, physical, biological and pharmacological measures such as vaccinations, the distribution of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs), use of repellants, drainage of stagnant water, etc.

The advantages of space-based imagery for these studies include its reliable supply of data on a range of environmental parameters such as precipitation, temperature, Vegetation Indices, topography, etc. It makes these data available at varying temporal, spatial and spectral resolutions. Satellite data can be acquired at reasonable costs and much of what is freely available is being put to good scientific use already. To improve access to this, it is important that African countries invest in developing technical and scientific capacity to put them at the helm of disease studies affecting their environment and populations.

IRI/LDEO Data Library

EDEN: Emerging Diseases in a Changing European Environment

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Development, Earth observation, Epidemiology, Global Security, Health, Satellites, Science, Space science and technology | Leave a Comment »