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GEO Contributes to UN Resolution on Geospatial Information and Services for Disasters

Coordinating Ocean Observations for the African Coasts

Image by Dewet Willemse

The National Oceans and Coastal Information Management System (National-OCIMS) has established Earth observation technology capacity for the South African Exclusive Economic Zone as well as the extended continental shelf. The system delivers Earth observation data through an online operational system.

Among the 54 African states, 38 of them are coastal countries and as such, protecting the ocean and monitoring coastlines are necessary for the sustainable socio-economic development of the continent.

The National-OCIMS was initiated by the South African Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and forms part of Operation Phakisa- Blue Economy initiative. The Blue Economy initiative aims to expand across the continent through AfriGEO.

The National-OCIMS  has integrated Decision Support Tools (DeST) for sea state, water quality, harmful algal bloom, coastal erosion, oil spill detection and monitoring, as well as marine spatial planning.

For example, the Harmful Algal Bloom  DeST supports aquaculture farms, commercial fisheries, subsistence fisheries with knowledge of when and where blooms occur. The Coastal Flood Hazard DeST supports coastal  provinces and municipalities, town planners, disaster managers, environmental practitioners and others with up-to-date information on flooding. Key users and stakeholders include the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and the Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT).

Using the Africa Regional Data Cube (ARDC) to monitor Mount Kenya forest

Image by Zain Fiaz
Image by Zain Fiaz


The forest sector in Kenya is the backbone to the country’s economy and plays a significant role the ecological health of the region. Kenya’s forest cover is estimated to be about 7.4% of the total land area. Mount Kenya forest is around 200,870.880 hectares and spread out in Nyeri, Meru, Embu and Kirinyaga counties, according to the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

The United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030 (UNSPF) provides a global framework for action at all levels to sustainably manage all types of forests, as well as trees outside forests, and halt deforestation and forest degradation. Thus, the framework contributes to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially SDG 15 “Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss.”

The Africa Regional Data Cube (ARDC) offers time series, free, and open EO data to address SDGs and to support five countries in Africa: Kenya, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Tanzania. This has the potential to exploit the growing volumes of EO data to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ARDC will be scaled up to provide open data for the whole of Africa through Digital Earth Africa.

The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and Amazon Web Services have used the Africa Regional Data Cube (ARDC) to map forest cover in Mt. Kenya.

In this research, a methodology was developed to addresses two SDG indicators: SDG 15.1.1 - Forest area as a proportion of total land area, and SDG 15.3.1 - Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area. The ARDC used several algorithms to detect deforestation such as Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Water Observations from Space (WOfS), Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI), and Fractional Coverage.

Download a presentation on the project here.

“The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has been mandated with the task of monitoring forest cover. Earth observation provides an opportunity to map forests. However, this has been a daunting task of downloading images, some with clouds and image processing takes time. The Africa Regional Data Cube (ARDC) provides time series, cloud free mosaics and will help us in providing timely information for decision making”. John Ndambiri, Head of Forest Planning and Information System, Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

Regional Cropland Assessment

& Monitoring Service

Image by Marcin Jozwiak


Several African nations are benefitting from a Regional Cropland Assessment and Monitoring Service.

The Regional Cropland Assessment and Monitoring Service seeks to provide timely information for food security assessments through the development of national and regional crop monitors in East Africa, including Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Djibouti and Eritrea.

The crop monitors are helping streamline data collection and synthesize crop conditions through a combination of field assessments and earth observation data. Information about crop conditions is supplemented with climate outlook and market information. The resulting maps provide an understanding of crop conditions and drivers of less than favorable conditions.

The service has been co-developed by RCMRD/SERVIR-Eastern and Southern Africa, University of Maryland, College Park, Kenya State Department of Crops Development, ICPA, GEOGLAM, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, FAO, FEWSNET using satellite data and products from CHIRPS, LANDSAT 5, LANDSAT 7, LANDSAT 8, MODIS, Sentinel.

Users include the State Department of Crops Development in the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock Fisheries and Irrigation (Kenya), IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre, Famine Early Warning Network (FEWSNET), Food and Agriculture Organization, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Extension officers and field agents.

The service facilitates a crop modelling framework to assess drought and yields. Additional activities include supporting the Kenya Government crop insurance programme by developing a geospatially informed sampling frame. The sampling frame has resulted in over 70% cost reduction and reduced sampling time - increasing efficiency and reducing bias in sample selection. Overall, the service supports enhanced food security decisions from the local to regional levels.

Protecting Farmers' Livelihoods Using Satellite Imagery

Image by Matt Artz


More than half of Kenya’s nearly 50 million citizens work in the agricultural sector, underscoring the important role farming plays in Kenya’s economy and individuals’ livelihoods. Despite the importance of agriculture to the economy, until recently the Government of Kenya had been using outdated cropland maps (from 2000-2001) to conduct food security assessments.

To help address this problem, in 2017, SERVIR–Eastern and Southern Africa at the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) worked with the Kenyan State Department of Agriculture to release updated cropland maps that were co-developed with USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) — a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity.

The completed cropland maps (or crop masks) provide information on the locations of the major and minor crops being grown, and if rain-fed or irrigation-systems are being used. This information allows for rapid identification of changes in crop development, helping the Government of Kenya better plan where to deliver village-level food assistance during droughts, flooding, and other food security crises.

To ensure the long-term availability of updated crop masks, several technical training sessions have been offered to equip key stakeholders in the agricultural sector with the necessary skills for developing updated maps and computing image changes from different periods. The Government of Kenya continues to view agriculture as a priority for national economic development. More accurate, timely, and cost-effective crop masks will help the government meet this objective by improving food security assessments to better protect vulnerable communities and to ensure a strong agricultural sector.

“Participants can now use the technical knowledge gained and apply it directly to their agricultural field work.” Antony Ndubi, RCMRD’s Remote Sensing Expert

Image by Matt Artz
Image by Matt Artz
Image by Matt Artz
Image by Matt Artz

Supporting Kenya's Crop Insurance with cost effective yield measurements

Image by Sergey Pesterev
Image by Sergey Pesterev

Kenya’s State Department of Agriculture is using the co-developed crop masks in their recently established crop insurance programme that provides payouts to farmers during incidences of crop failure. To support this initiative, SERVIR–Eastern and Southern Africa and GEOGLAM researchers at the University of Maryland assisted the government in developing a methodology for determining harvest yield trends on a local level.

The project helped to guide the development of a stratified sampling frame (area frame) to determine where yield measurements would be done by Kenya’s State Department of Agriculture. Applying a methodology that had been tested in Tanzania, the area frame made the crop insurance scheme more cost-effective than the very labor-intensive list frame that was used initially.

This approach was successfully applied in Nakuru County and provided a significant cost savings as the government can now make detailed assessments with updated satellite maps rather than counting individual farmers on the ground. The successful use of these crop masks has created a new demand to expand this methodology to 20 additional counties where the crop insurance programme operates.

It was reported that at least 12,000 farmers had received payouts for maize crop failure in an insurance project aimed to help achieve food security. The Head of Crop Insurance at the Agriculture Ministry Jacinta Ngwiri said the farmers are from 20 counties with Meru, Uasin Gishu, Bungoma, Kilifi, Nakuru and Narok registering the highest population of farmers. The project involves farmers insuring crops based on projected harvest with premiums calculated on production output in each region besides other risk factors. 

Monitoring illegal mining & charcoal production in Ghana

Image by Sebastian Pichler


As part of the SERVIR Programme in the sub-region the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS) located in the University of Ghana is developing satellite image based monitoring services to support sustainable environmental management at local levels.

Two services for monitoring illegal mining and charcoal production sites are currently under development. CERSGIS is using high resolution satellite imagery in Google Earth to map the distribution of charcoal kilns in two pilot areas in Ghana.  The data was then pushed onto a geoportal developed by CERSGIS which has a backdrop of annual composites of tree cover index maps of 2013 to2018, derived from Landsat data.  So far, a total of 1340 kilns have been identified in the pilot districts.  Illegal mining endemic areas have also been identified and mapped with Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 image data.

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