African Association of
Remote Sensing of the Environment


All the latest news on AARSE and remote sensing.
  • 13 Jan 2016 1:41 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: DHI Gras

    A consortium led by DHI GRAS (Denmark) and including GeoVille GmbH (Austria), ITC (Netherlands) and Brockman Consult (Germany) as well as the technical universities in Copenhagen (Denmark) and Vienna (Austria) has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to carry out the 1.5 mio Euro GlobWetland Africa Project.

    African wetlands are among the most productive and biologically diverse ecosystems in the world, but they are also experiencing immense pressure from human activities, the most important being drainage for agriculture and settlement, excessive exploitation by local communities and improperly planned development activities. The future of African wetlands lies in a stronger political will to protect them, based on sound wetland policies and encouragement for community participation in their management. Since 1971, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has been the intergovernmental treaty providing the framework for national actions and international cooperation for the conservation and wise usage of wetlands. To date, 169 countries have adopted the Ramsar Convention and have designated 2,220 wetland sites of international importance for a comprehensive area of more than over  214 Million hectares.

    The European Space Agency and the Ramsar Secretariat have jointly launched GlobWetland Africa as a major initiative to provide the major actors involved in the implementation of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in Africa (i.e. the African Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, the Ramsar regional initiatives existing in Africa, the African river basin authorities, and the international/regional conservation agencies active in Africa), with Earth Observation methods and tools to assess the conditions of wetlands under their areas of jurisdiction/study, and to better monitor their trends over time.

    GlobWetland Africa will help African authorities to make the best use of satellite-based information on wetland extent and condition for better measuring the ecological state of wetlands and hence their capacity to support biodiversity and provide ecosystem services. To this end, an open source and free-of-charge software toolbox will be developed for the end-to-end processing of a large portfolio of EO products (including wetland inventory, wetland habitat mapping, inundation regimes, water quality, mangroves mapping and river basin hydrology) and the subsequent derivation of spatial and temporal indicators on wetland status and trends, from local to basin scales. The proof-of-concept and proof-of-value of the GW-A Toolbox will be provided through a set of use case demonstrations executed over +70 pilot areas spread across the African continent. In addition, the project will also organize regional training courses for the partner organizations and ensure technical assistance during a period long enough to allow for an appropriation of the provided methods, tools and products.

    As an ultimate objective GlobWetland Africa will aim to enhance the capacity of the African stakeholders to develop their own national and regional wetland observatories, and thereby also acting as a key contributor towards the development of a Global Wetlands Observing System (GWOS).

    Original article

  • 13 Jan 2016 1:39 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Motherboard; Article:Chris Matthews

    Plantain sellers, fruit vendors and market stalls line the road as taxis and local tro tro buses dart through the busy high street. The lively centre of Koforidua, hemmed in by lush green mountains, appears to be the typical Ghanaian city.

    A short drive outside town, atop the roof of the All Nations University College (ANUC), history is in the making. Members of Ghana’s first university space science laboratory, joined by a NASA engineer, are busily installing meteorological instruments. The installation will provide the university with detailed climate readings from Koforidua and its surroundings and feed back to NASA’s global climate database in the US.

    The project is the latest achievement for the university which, along with the government and a string of other academic institutions, is helping spearhead Ghana’s fledgling space science industry. While often met with scepticism and criticism about spending, the quest to create space science programs in Ghana and across Africa is taking off.

    Those involved believe the benefits can be felt across society, with space satellites helping transform everything from agriculture practices to quashing illegal mining, while promoting space education could help encourage Ghana’s new generation of engineers and academics.

    "[Space science] can benefit Ghana as a whole,” said Julian Bennett, the university’s space science director. “It is an opportunity for us in Ghana, but it is not easy doing these things from here without the facilities available.”

    ANUC took its first tentative steps into space science in 2013 by launching a CanSat, a basic can-sized device fitted with antennas and a camera that hovers above ground tethered to a helium balloon and sends images back to ground.

    The university has since opened an amateur ground station to study satellites in orbit, made contact with the international space station, installed UHF and VHF antennas, and has plans to launch a CubeSat by 2018, Bennett explained.

    “People have this view that space science means launching a rocket or observing faraway galaxies, but in reality a lot of it is actually relating to earth and observations,” NASA instrument engineer Jon Rodriguez added.

    Nestled on the top floor in between university classrooms and engineering laboratories, the epicentre of ANUC’s space initiative is a small, unassuming room. Multiple monitors on one side make up its ground station while a prototype of its CubeSat and a white board of ideas draw your attention at the other.

    "I remember the very first day we heard a voice," said Bennett. "We were here one evening just tracking satellites… and we turned it on and we could hear a voice. [It's] not very common in our region to hear a live voice signal. We were very excited and jumping around the place."

    This excitement for space science was spurred by Ghana’s government, which in 2011 launched the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute (GSSTI). It follows in the path of several other African nations in promoting space science and looking to the final frontier to help address on-the-ground issues and local problems.

    Approaching the gates of Ghana’s Atomic Energy Commission in Accra, where two guards stand in front, I enter and pass down the long driveway and a cluster of concrete buildings hidden from the roadside come into view.

    Individuals in white coats and suits walk around the well-kept lawns as staff from the GSSTI drive me around the complex. Here, development work for the government program is underway, but is kept under wraps during my visit. GSSTI's conversion of a 32-metre satellite antenna into a telescope as part of its radio astronomy project is off limits, although GSSTI said it should be completed in June.

    In addition to unveiling a telescope and astronomy centre in collaboration with the South African government, GSSTI has designs to send its first satellite to space by 2020. The government allocated GHC$38.5 million (US$10 million) to nuclear and space science technology in 2015 as it aims to further space education and benefit from its own satellite imagery.

    A short drive outside the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission is the University of Ghana’s graduate school where many GSSTI staff are based, including Eric Aggrey, a project manager at the institute.

    “[People] always see space science as just sending man to the Moon,” he explained. “I am very much keen about human development... most of the time our teaching ends on the blackboard and now we can have people practising their skills. [That] will help us a lot."

    The government has 20 staff at its institute, while the nearby University of Ghana has started courses in astronomy, as does the Kwame Nkrumah University in Kumasi. ANUC’s initiative currently employs six people, and the school has aspirations to start academic courses in astronomy and space science. Outreach programs on space education are also happening at primary schools across the country.

    But the value of the nascent Ghanaian space program isn't just for education. At present, the nation is reliant on satellite images from foreign companies, but by having its own independent satellites, Aggrey and others believe significant benefits can be felt across society.

    “God willing, we will also go into launching our own satellite. In the next couple of years we are going to be able to clearly define our needs and design a satellite to fill our needs,” Aggrey said.

    "If we have our own or a regional satellite then we will have a common agenda if it is for agriculture, environmental degradation, storms... then we can use them to address local problems," said Godfred Frempong, chief scientist at the country’s Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI).

    “[In] Ghana, for example, illegal mining is destroying our environment," Frempong continued. "So if we have a satellite [in orbit] we can use it to pinpoint where activity is going on. That would perhaps not be activity of interest to the US, but it is of interest to us.”

    Illegal gold mining is a major problem for the West African nation, with hundreds of artisanal mines operating across the country. Although there is a dedicated government taskforce, the prospect of having a tailored satellite to monitor the landscape may prove a significant tool in the fight.

    The GSSTI’s Aggrey says satellite imaging and climate data could also help better manage natural disasters. He believes it could help prevent tragedies like that which occurred in June this year, when at least 25 people were killed in floods across the capital Accra. Climatological data can also make an impact in agriculture, and the University of Natural Resources and Energy in Ghana’s central region is another institution looking to “tap into” space and offer solutions to the country’s many farmers. The university started its space science initiative in 2012, and has set up a ground station to collect meteorological and weather information. It's scheduled to launch its inaugural satellite in September 2016.

    “[The satellite] will be for improving weather [forecasting]," explained Amos Kabo-Bah, acting head of UENR's Earth Observation Innovation Centre. "In Africa [forecasting is] a key problem because data sources are not very good. We will be contributing towards the improvement of weather prediction and supporting the farmers and agriculture.”

    With almost half of the population employed in agriculture, improving climatological data to better serve the country’s farmers could have wide-reaching benefits.

    “You can show where we have water and not, the type of crops, where certain crops grow well and it can even detect pollution in the rivers,” GSSTI’s Aggrey added. “We can design a satellite specifically for Ghana.”

    The centre, funded through central grants at a cost of GHC$1.5 million (US$390,000), has partnered with the government’s forestry, disaster management and fire services to harness satellite data.

    “We have intentions of developing the data we receive into what we call wildfire indices,” Kabo-Bah said. “We want to be able to tell in West Africa how wildfires occur and we should be able to predict them and send them to all agencies via mobiles who need the information”

    Still, one of the biggest challenges for Ghana's space industry remains addressing criticism that it's irresponsible to spend government funds on space initiatives in a country where even amid great urban development, poverty still affects 20 percent of the population, a nationwide electricity crisis continues, and corruption is rampant.

    “One of the biggest challenges is getting the average Ghanaian excited about what we are doing,” Bennett explained.

    “We are coming from a side of the world where it is a challenge getting money to buy food and clothes," Bennett added. "So why should we spend so much money which could have been used to feed so many people just to build a satellites to taking pictures. I don’t think the benefits have sunk in yet.”

    Nearby Nigeria is already benefiting from its own satellites. Its Space Research and Development Agency launched the NigeriaSat-1 in 2003 and now operates several satellites, with imaging data used to monitor oil activity in the Niger Delta, among other focuses.

    And others on the continent are following suit. Ethiopia unveiled a US$3 million space observatory in June, Kenya launched a space program in 2012, and Angola is in the process of building a satellite in partnership with a Russian consortium.

    It remains to be seen how far Ghana’s fledgling space science industry will go, but the prospects look bright as its set of space pioneers continue to develop the country’s unlikely forays into space science.

    “It is not that we can compete with NASA, but we will build the infrastructure to tap into the knowledge we have here in Ghana,” STEPRI director Frempong concluded. “The frontier of science is unlimited.”

    Original article

  • 13 Jan 2016 12:48 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: The Guardian

    Radar images of the Mauritanian desert have revealed a river stretching for more than 500km and suggest plants and wildlife once thrived there

    A radar image of the discovered paleo-rivers. Water may last have coursed through the newly discovered network’s channels 5,000 years ago.

    A radar image of the discovered paleo-rivers. Water may last have coursed through the newly discovered network’s channels 5,000 years ago. Photograph: Philippe Paillou

    A vast river network that once carried water for hundreds of miles across Western Sahara has been discovered under the parched sands of Mauritania.

    Radar images taken from a Japanese Earth observation satellite spotted the ancient river system beneath the shallow, dusty surface, apparently winding its way from more than 500km inland towards the coast.

    The buried waterway may have formed part of the proposed Tamanrasett River that is thought to have flowed across parts of Western Sahara in ancient times from sources in the southern Atlas mountains and Hoggar highlands in what is now Algeria.

    The French-led team behind the discovery believe the river carried water to the sea during the periodic humid spells that took hold in the region over the past 245,000 years. Water may last have coursed through the channels 5,000 years ago.

    The river would have helped people, plants and wildlife to thrive in what is now desert land, and would have carried nutrients crucial for marine organisms far into the sea. Were it still flowing today, the river system would rank 12th among the largest on Earth, the researchers write in the journal Nature Communications.

    Images taken from the satellite revealed that the hidden river beds aligned almost perfectly with a huge underwater canyon that extends off the coast of Mauritania into waters more than three kilometres deep. First mapped in 2003, the Cap Timiris Canyon is 2.5km wide and a kilometre deep in places.

    The outlines and the main course of the proposed Tamanrasett River are drawn in blue and grey, respectively. The newly identified river and the Cap Timiris Canyon are in dark blue on the far left of the map.

    The outlines and the main course of the proposed Tamanrasett River are drawn in blue and grey, respectively. The newly identified river and the Cap Timiris Canyon are in dark blue on the far left of the map. Photograph: Nature Communications

    Russell Wynn at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton was among the researchers who created the first 3D map of the canyon from the German Meteor research vessel. Sediment cores brought up from the canyon bottom contained fine-grained river-borne particles that suggested a massive river had first formed, and later fed into, the deep channel carved into the continental shelf.


    “It’s a great geological detective story and it confirms more directly what we had expected. This is more compelling evidence that in the past there was a very big river system feeding into this canyon,” said Wynn, who was not involved in the latest study. “It tells us that as recently as five to six thousand years ago, the Sahara desert was a very vibrant, active river system.”

    In full flow, the river would have carried organic material from the land out into the ocean, where it sustained a rich ecosystem of filter feeders and other organisms in the canyon. But the river was destructive too, occasionally sending rapid, turbulent rushes of water and sediment down the canyon. Similar flows are still active off the coast of Taiwan today, and hold enough power to destroy submarine cables and other infrastructure.

    “People sometimes can’t get their head around climate change and how quickly it happens. Here’s an example where within just a couple of thousand years, the Sahara went from being wet and humid, with lots of sediment being transported into the canyon, to something that’s arid and dry,” Wynn said.

    Original article

  • 13 Jan 2016 12:21 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Satellite TODAY; Article: Juliet Van Wagenen

    South African airlines are seeing growth on the horizon, but the continent still operates with relatively sparse air traffic surveillance. With the South African Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS), recently signing on with Aireon to enable space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) capabilities across the Johannesburg Flight Information Region (FIR) and the Cape Town FIR, the country could gain access to more complete air traffic surveillance capabilities by 2018.

    “The implementation of space-based ADS-B will supplement the current terrestrial surveillance network in South Africa in those areas where there is either no coverage or where terrestrial systems are uneconomical to install. Furthermore space-based ADS-B will provide a backup surveillance service in the event of terrestrial surveillance system outages,” ATNS CEO Thabani Mthiyane told Via Satellite Magazine.

    Currently, terrestrial surveillance systems are limited in Africa as a result of socio-economic circumstances in the region and the relatively sparse air traffic that operates across the continent. As of now, Africa operates a small commercial fleet, with just 690 aircraft reported in 2014 according to Boeing’s Current Market Outlook (CMO). The scarcity of aircraft can increase the financial burden each operator must carry when implementing surveillance, limiting the amount of radar technology ANSPs in the region are able to install.

    “Operating radar in general is an expensive thing to do and South Africa has a pretty well established surveillance coverage in their airspace. But if you don’t have a lot of flights going through there, that’s where the traffic density kicks in, the cost per flight of operating that infrastructure becomes much higher and in the end those costs are directly linked to the rate that an ANSP charges the airlines,” Cyriel Kronenburg, vice president of aviation services at Aireon, told Via Satellite Magazine.

    Technology and cost aside, the continent has also seen issues in bulking up terrestrial surveillance as radar equipment tends to “disappear” shortly after it is installed.

    “There are areas of Africa where even if they were to put up surveillance equipment, it lasts for a very short period of time because the security of those sites is such a big problem that it just disappears,” said Kronenburg. “You put the radar in and then a couple of months later the radar is gone because it is difficult to maintain all of those sites due to the remote nature of the continent.”

    Space-based ADS-B, requiring little ground infrastructure, could offer an alternative to the terrestrial equipment that seems to be walking away and “allow surveillance coverage to be rapidly extended across the continent without the necessity of having to fund, develop, operate and maintain numerous green field terrestrial surveillance systems,” said Mthiyane.

    This increased surveillance is something the continent will need in order to increase flight efficiencies and streamline operations as the in-service fleet of aircraft grows and air traffic volumes rise. Africa is set to see delivery of 1,170 aircraft between now and 2034 as airlines look to replace aging and obsolete aircraft alongside some anticipated air traffic increases, according to the Boeing CMO.

    With the African economy expected to rise at an average 6 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year, and reports showing growth in Sub-Saharan economies that will match or surpass the global rate, airlines in the region are bulking up their fleets to accommodate, such as Ethiopia Airlines, which announced plans to double its fleet size in August 2015. While Ethiopia does not fall under the South African FIR, both Mthiyane and Kronenburg believe other countries across Africa will “follow suit” and sign on to enable space-based ADS-B in coming years so as to improve flight operations across the continent.

    “The provision of [space-based ADS-B] will improve aviation safety and operational efficiency for aircraft operators,” said Mthiyane. “The outcome will be improved conflict detection and resolution, more efficient routes, improved aircraft operating efficiencies, reductions in flight times and fuel burn with lower greenhouse gas emissions over the duration of flights. It will also create an environment where standardized operating procedures that transcend national boundaries can be introduced at a regional level and that allows for training and development of ANSP personnel in new operational concepts and technologies.”

    The issue of avionics equipage to access the ADS-B surveillance still stands, however, as equipage rates in the region are still relatively low, according to Kronenburg. The U.S. and European ADS-B equipage mandates, with a Jan. 1, 2020 deadline, will naturally push operators in Africa that touch on those regions to upgrade their aircraft. Similarly, many states in the region have already published ADS-B mandates to require equipage for ADS-B Out transponders, with the hopes that aircraft in the region will be fully equipped when the capability comes online in 2018.

    Original article

  • 17 Dec 2015 8:26 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: European Commission: Article: Copernicus Newsletter

    The GMES & Africa initiative was established in order to promote cooperation between the European Union and the African Union, to strengthen coordination amongst Earth Observation initiatives, and to facilitate the development of Space-based technologies on the African continent. In October 2015, the Development Cooperation Instrument committee of the European Commission's Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) approved funding support from the Pan-African programme related to this initiative. Three priority topics will be addressed during the initial implementation phase of the initiative (2016 – 2020): long term management of natural resources, marine and coastal areas monitoring and water resources management.

    The GMES & Africa initiative was established in 2007 as a firm commitment to cooperative action between Europe and Africa towards the development and implementation of Earth Observation (EO) applications tailored to African requirements. A specific roadmap was developed which applied the programmatic approach of the EU's Copernicus programme (known as GMES at the time) to the African continent. The GMES & Africa initiative takes place in the wider context of the Africa-EU partnership, aimed at the sustainable development of the African regions and scientific cooperation between Europe and Africa.

    The GMES & Africa partnership approach arose as a result of the consensus reached at the Lisbon Summit in December 2007, as part of the 8th Joint Africa-EU Strategy Partnership on Science, Information Society and Space. The Lisbon declaration on GMES & Africa laid out the actions to be undertaken in order to formulate the GMES & Africa Action Plan (GAAP). GMES & Africa will strengthen Africa's capacities and its ownership of EO activities, acknowledging the importance of past and present African programmes and recognising the need to coordinate actions so as to avoid duplication, increase synergies and enhance complementarities.

    After extensive consultations over several years, the African and European experts involved in this initiative defined nine thematic areas for the GMES & Africa information services: i) infrastructure and territorial development, ii) long term management of natural resources, iii) marine and coastal areas, iv) water resources management, v) impact of climate variability change, vi) natural disasters, vii) food security and rural development, viii) conflicts and political crises, ix) health management issues. In addition, five cross-cutting issues were identified: governance, infrastructure, capacity building, financial and monitoring & evaluation.

    Nine GMES & Africa information services defined after extensive consultations. The three topics marked in orange will be implemented during the first phase (2016-2020) under the auspices of the Pan-African Programme of the EC's DG DEVCO.

    The GMES & Africa coordination team, comprised of experts from the African Union Commission (AUC), the European Commission, African and European Member States, regional organisations, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and the European Space Agency (ESA), selected three of the above-mentioned topics as priority areas to be addressed during the initial implementation phase of the initiative: long-term management of natural resources, water resources management and monitoring of marine and coastal environment.

    In October 2015, the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) committee of the European Commission's Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) backed this initiative, providing funding support from the Pan-African programme (EU financial instrument for the development of the cooperation strategy between the European Union and the African Union).

    Presently, African organisations are submitting concept notes - expression of interest - to a call issued by the African Union Commission for the implementation of services in the three priority areas.

    GMES & Africa will be coordinated by the AUC through a dedicated secretariat to be established (and mandated) once the African Space Policy and Strategy will have been adopted by the African Heads of State at their summit scheduled for February 2016.

    Reinforcing links in Earth Observation: 6th EU-Africa Space Troika

    The EU-Africa Space Troika is a forum that was set up in 2011, bringing together representatives of the Africa Union Commission Departments and European Commission Directorates involved in Space matters in order to advance cooperation in Space and in monitoring the implementation of projects.

    The forum also aims at enabling Africa to exploit its Space resources and to coordinate synergies amongst Space initiatives on the continent, so that Space systematically contributes to Africa's sustainable development efforts.

    The 6th EU-Africa Space Troika, organised in Brussels on April 20th 2015, was dedicated to Earth Observation matters, and particularly to GMES & Africa. The forum called for the application of approaches developed in the context of the Copernicus programme for the implementation of GMES & Africa: taking advantage of free, full and open access to Space data, focusing on services which are already operational, and involving the private sector in service development.

    The African private sector involved in remote sensing and geospatial technology has grown immensely over the past 20 years. A better understanding of this sectors' expertise and capabilities is, however, needed in order to assess its health and state and to better harness its potential.  To this end, the EC's DG GROW (Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs) is initiating the creation of a "yellow pages" inventory of African private sector actors in this field who could potentially contribute to the GMES & Africa initiative. This tool will enable to play an important role by the African private sector companies during the development and provision of information services in the context of GMES & Africa, and facilitate joint ventures between European and African companies.

    Original Article

    Copernicus newsletter: December 2015

  • 02 Nov 2015 9:53 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: The Cairo Post

    Egypt and Russia will sign a contract in late 2015 to establish a new Egyptian satellite for remote sensing, Vladimir Solntsev, head of Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, told Ria Novosti Wednesday.

    The satellite is planned to be launched in three years, Solntsev said.

    Egypt’s first Earth remote sensing satellite EgyptSat-1, made in Ukraine, was launched in 2007, but Egypt prematurely lost contact with it in 2010. The country’s second satellite, produced by Energia, was launched in April 2014.

    Egypt says it is adamant to launch a remote sensing satellite for scientific purposes.

    Original article

  • 29 Oct 2015 3:04 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Nasarawa State Government, Nigeria embarked on a large-scale land-based investment of US$16,876,561.00(2.7 billion Nigerian Naira), using modern geospatial technologies to develop a modern geospatial data infrastructure for the state.

    Nasarawa State is one of the thirty six (36) federating states of Nigeria. It was created in 1996 and is located in the north central part of the country. It is bound by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja to the west, Kaduna and Plateau States to the north, Taraba State to the east and Benue and Kogi States to the south (See Figures 1 & 2). It has a total land area of 27, 290sq km. with a population of over two million people, where most of them practice subsistence agriculture.

    Presence of naturally made land is a very important resource to the government and people of the state. In this context, the proper management of land in the state is imperative. Its close proximity to Abuja, FCT (See Figure 2) has made the state to always react to events that it has no control over. Development activities within Abuja, FCT in the last 38 years has significantly affected in Nasarawa State. Most of the impact has been on land and could be said to always be negative in a lot of cases. For instance, a large number of the FCT’s work forces are resident in the neighboring Karu Local Government Area of the state. Though no reliable official figures are available, various estimates put the figures at between 45% and 50% of the FCT work force living in Nasarawa State and commuting daily. This has multiple effects on housing needs, transport and other social services. Past administrations of the state have unfortunately not been able to address land issues within the entire state. Land and important means of production were completely ignored until the year 2012.

    The state government realized early in 2011 that the entire system of land administration and management within the state was in chaos. Records available within the lands department are old and not easily retractable if and when needed. Under this scenario it was easy to see that no meaningful development could be achieved without putting in place a modern system that could address the serious issues in a holistic manner once and for all. In addition to this the state government was (and is still) in a precarious financial situation. It could not depend on the federation account allocation for its sources of funds if it wants to serve its people properly. Due to this issue, the state government decided to look inward and harness the land resources at its disposal. It decided to embark on a large scale land-based investment of US$16,876,561.00(2.7 billion Nigerian Naira), using modern geospatial technologies in order to develop a modern geospatial data infrastructure for the state. The project has three components – Orthophoto Mapping, Geographic Information Service and Urban Planning & Urban renewal, commenced in May 2012.

    Under this project, the state land mass of 27, 290sq km was flown. Six townships were flown at 10cm GDS, while the remaining parts of the entire state were flown at 25cm GDS. The data acquired were stored in a GIS platform of Nasarawa Geographic Information Service (NAGIS). Land use and land cover maps were also produced for the entire state. This is an unprecedented development as not more than one state in Nigeria has performed such a feat so far.

    This paper essentially set up to examine the impact of this large scale land-based investment by the state government:

    - The development of spatial data infrastructure in the last two and half years as well as the challenges faced during the implementation stages. Lessons learnt so far as well as the remarkable improvement in service delivery recorded in land administration and land management practices are unprecedented.

    Project overview

    The development of spatial data infrastructure in the state – known as Nasarawa Development Platform Project – was conceived to address the many issues of Land Administration and Management within Nasarawa State. The sharing of a common border with Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Abuja City makes for a strong case for addressing squarely the problem of urban poor in respect of land ownership and its attendant social consequences. This project has three components:-

    • Digital Aerial Mapping of the Whole State and Six selected Urban Areas Nasarawa Geographic Information Services (NAGIS).
    • Urban Renewal & Planning of three Townships (Lafia, Keffi& Karu)

    Commenced in May 2012, the project spilled over to the year 2015 even though it had an initial completion period of 24 months at a total cost of UD$ 16,876,561.00

    Read full article

  • 28 Oct 2015 12:28 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Quartz, Article: Annalisa Merelli

    Lake Volta, in the eastern part of Ghana, has long been a center of endemic child slavery: trafficked children are abducted from their homes and employed in the local fishing industry, where they are exploited, working up to 19 hours a day performing hard and dangerous tasks.

    There are relief organizations that want to help put an end to these practices. But it’s hard to tackle a problem when you don’t know how big it is. According to the International Labor Organization (pdf, p.22), an estimated one-third of the 1.2 million child laborers in Ghana are located in the Volta region. How many are currently employed in fisheries is harder to pinpoint.

    Martina Ucnikova, an executive for the Global Fund to End Slavery, tells Quartz that given how large the lake is—8,502 square kilometers (nearly 3,380 square miles)—it’s difficult to get an accurate count of all the boats, buildings, and fish cages that have sprung up in, on, or around the lake.

    There is, however, a relatively easy way to scan the lake for signs of fishery—looking from high above, through a satellite image. This is why the Global Fund to End Slavery partnered with Tomnod, a crowdsourcing research project that makes high-resolution satellite images provided by satellite company DigitalGlobe (of which Tomnod is part) available online.

    As it’s done before with other projects—notably, crowdsourcing the search for the missing Malaysian Airline flight 370 in 2014, and in its relief work after natural disasters—Tomnod is asking its community to simply look at the arial images of Lake Volta and tag any boats, buildings, and fish cages they see.

    The campaign, launched on Oct. 12, has so far attracted 9,000 volunteers—half of them returning Tomnod members, who have helped with other searches, and half new members, attracted by this specific effort—who have collectively tagged 80,000 objects with remarkable accuracy, Caitlyn Milton, DigitalGlobe’s crowdsourcing manager, tells Quartz.

    Participation is simple, and open to anyone with an internet connection and a few minutes to spare. Users are presented with digital images and asked to drop tags on boats, buildings, or fish cages. Once a tag is dropped, an algorithm verifies its accuracy based on elements including tags that others have left on the same object, and the experience of the tagger. Gradually, the entire surface of the lake gets explored in depth, as the same area is searched by several volunteers.

    “Part of the overarching story is that this type of exploration is easy for everyone,” Milton says, noting that the tagging community includes elementary students completing the explorations as part of their classwork, as well as elderly or disabled people who find the work to be a gratifying way to exercise their motor skills. The average search lasts only five minutes, though often people engage in multiple search sessions.

    Milton estimates that at present, 65% to 75% of the initial area is left to explore before this search is complete. Once that’s done, the Global Fund to End Slavery will be able to know “how big is the industry and estimate the size of the child trafficking,” Ucnikova tells Quartz. Right now the organization believes there are an average of 1.7 enslaved children per fishing boat.

    This will probably lead to other collaborations, Milton says, perhaps to use crowdsourced satellite image search in the same area to identify artisanal, illegal mines.

    Original article

  • 28 Oct 2015 12:18 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Penn State News

    A new Penn State project aimed at improving the food system in East Africa by enhancing pollination services and promoting bee-derived products has received a Food Systems Innovation Grant from the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation, based at Michigan State University.

    The long-term goal of the two-year project is to create an information-gathering and decision-support system that combines global positioning systems, geographic information systems and cell phone technologies to translate field data into reliable, evidence-based management recommendations for smallholder farmers. Researchers will test the effectiveness of this approach by applying it to the management of honey bees, said lead investigator Maryann Frazier, senior extension associate in entomology, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

    "The honey bee is an important native pollinator and income-generator in East Africa and is well known as a key pollinating species throughout most of the world," she said. "However, in Africa, little work has been done to understand its role in agro- or natural ecosystems or what improvements might be attained through enhanced pollination services. In addition, honey bees provide income and an important source of calories for thousands of rural East Africans."

    Frazier noted that the project builds on six years of collaborative research between Penn State (including its Center for Pollinator Research and Center for Chemical Ecology), Kenya's International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology, and, more recently, South Eastern Kenya University.

    "In our earlier work, 29 beekeepers surveyed at 14 locations across Kenya all confirmed that they are unable to meet the local demand for honey through their current production," Frazier said. "In addition, beeswax, a by-product of honey production, traditionally has been discarded by East African beekeepers. But pesticide-free beeswax is now in great demand on the international market and could provide added income for African communities."

    In the initial phase of the project, hives owned by beekeepers and placed into the local environment to capture migratory honey bee swarms will be mapped using their GPS coordinates. Research team member Patrick Kariuki, of South Eastern Kenya University, will use GIS and other satellite imagery to map the landscape, including native plant and crop coverage, and will monitor climatic conditions within the foraging range of hives.

    Using cell phone text messaging, participating beekeepers will submit honey bee population data, such as timing, location and size of the swarms colonizing the hives. They also will provide information about their management practices and honey and wax production.

    Eric Lonsdorf, visiting assistant professor of biology, Franklin and Marshall College, then will use a sophisticated model to correlate the landscape data with the information submitted by the beekeepers. The combined data will be used to characterize the best management strategies to maximize hive occupation and honey and wax production. Resulting recommendations will be shared with beekeepers via cell phone.

    "Once we have demonstrated the reliability of our methods, we will scale up this approach to determine if increased pollination by honey bees can improve yields of nutrient-rich food crops such as beans, cowpeas, pigeon peas and fruits," Frazier said. "Such increases in yields potentially could offset crop reductions due to drought and/or climate change."

    In addition, long-term monitoring of migratory honey bee populations also could provide useful information about the changing climate and its impacts on native plants and ecosystems in Africa, according to co-principal investigator Harland Patch, research scientist in entomology, Penn State.

    Other members of the research team include Christina Grozinger, professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State, and Elliud Muli and Benjimin Muli, of South Eastern Kenya University.

    The Global Center for Food Systems Innovation is a consortium led by Michigan State University in partnership with Wageningen University, The Netherlands; The Energy and Resources Institute, India; and Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. One of eight development labs funded by the USAID Global Development Lab under the Higher Education Solutions Network, the center's goal is to create, test and enable the scaling of innovations in the food system, using an approach that is multi-disciplinary, focused on the entire food system and forward-looking.

    Original article

  • 28 Oct 2015 11:54 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source:, Article: Angela Page

    In 2011, an influx of remote sensing data from satellites scanning the African savannas revealed a mystery: these rolling grasslands, with their heavy rainfalls and spells of drought, were home to significantly fewer trees than researchers had previously expected given the biome's high annual precipitation. In fact, the 2011 study found that the more instances of heavy rainfall a savanna received, the fewer trees it had.

    Read more at:
    In 2011, an influx of remote sensing data from satellites scanning the African savannas revealed a mystery: these rolling grasslands, with their heavy rainfalls and spells of drought, were home to significantly fewer trees than researchers had previously expected given the biome's high annual precipitation. In fact, the 2011 study found that the more instances of heavy rainfall a savanna received, the fewer trees it had.

    Read more at:

    In 2011, an influx of remote sensing data from satellites scanning the African savannas revealed a mystery: these rolling grasslands, with their heavy rainfalls and spells of drought, were home to significantly fewer trees than researchers had previously expected given the biome's high annual precipitation. In fact, the 2011 study found that the more instances of heavy rainfall a savanna received, the fewer trees it had.

    This paradox may finally have a solution due to new work from Princeton University recently published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences. In the study, researchers use mathematical equations to show that physiological differences between trees and grasses are enough to explain the curious phenomenon.

    "A simple way to view this is to think of rainfall as annual income," said Xiangtao Xu, a doctoral candidate in David Medvigy's lab and first author on the paper. "Trees and grasses are competing over the amount of money the savanna gets every year and it matters how they use their funds." Xu explained that when the bank is full and there is a lot of rain, the grasses, which build relatively cheap structures, thrive. When there is a deficit, the trees suffer less than grasses and therefore win out.

    To establish these findings, Xu and his Princeton collaborators Medvigy, assistant professor in geosciences, and Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe, professor of civil and environmental engineering, created a numerical model that mimics the actual mechanistic functions of the trees and grasses. "We put in equations for how they photosynthesize, how they absorb water, how they steal water from each other—and then we coupled it all with a stochastic rainfall generator," said Xu.

    Whereas former analyses only considered total annual or monthly rainfall, understanding how rainfall is distributed across the days is critical here, Xu said, because it determines who will win in a competition between grasses and trees for the finite resource of water availability.

    The stochastic rainfall generator draws on rainfall parameters derived from station observations across the savanna. By coupling it with the mechanistic equations describing how the trees and grasses function, the team was able to observe how the plants would respond under different local climate conditions.

    The research team found that under very wet conditions, grasses have an advantage because they can quickly absorb water and support high photosynthesis rates. Trees, with their tougher leaves and roots, are able to survive better in dry periods because of their ability to withstand water stress. But this amounts to a disadvantage for trees in periods of intense rainfall, as they are comparatively less effective at utilizing the newly abundant water.

    "We put realistic rainfall schemes into the model, then generated corresponding grass or tree abundance, and compared the numerical results with real-world observations," Xu said. If the model looked like the real-world data, then they could say it offered a viable explanation for the unexpected phenomenon, which is not supported by traditional models—and that is exactly what they found. They tested the model using both field measurements from a well-studied savanna in Nylsvley, South Africa and nine other sites along the Kalahari Transect, as well as remote sensing data across the whole continent. With each site, the model accurately predicted observed tree abundances in those locations.

    The work rejects the long held theory of root niche separation, which predicts that trees will out compete grasses under intense rainfall when the soil becomes saturated, because their heavy roots penetrate deeper into the ground. "But this ignores the fact that grasses and trees have different abilities for absorbing and utilizing water," Xu said. "And that's one of the most important parts of what we found. Grasses are more efficient at absorbing water, so in a big rainfall event, grasses win."

    "Models are developed to understand and predict the past and present state—they offer a perspective on future states given the shift in climatic conditions," said Gaby Katul, a Professor of Hydrology and Micrometeorology in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, who was not involved in the research. "This work offers evidence of how shifts in rainfall affect the tree-grass interaction because rainfall variations are large. The approach can be used not only to 'diagnose' the present state where rainfall pattern variations dominate but also offers a 'prognosis' as to what may happen in the future."

    Several high profile papers over the last decade predict that periods of intense rainfall like those described in the paper will become more frequent around the globe, especially in tropical areas, Xu said. His work suggests that these global climate changes will eventually lead to diminished tree abundance on the savannas.

    "Because the savanna takes up a large area, which is home to an abundance of both wild animals and livestock, this will influence many people who live in those areas," Xu said. "It's important to understand how the biome would change under global climate change."

    Furthermore, the study highlights the importance of understanding the structure and pattern of rainfall, not just the total annual precipitation—which is where most research in this area has traditionally focused. Fifty years from now, a region may still experience the same overall depth of precipitation, but if the intensity has changed, that will induce changes to the abundance of grasses and trees. This, in turn, will influence the herbivores that subsist on them, and other animals in the biome—essentially, affecting the entire complex ecosystem.

    Xu said it would be difficult to predict whether such changes would have positive or negative impacts. But he did say that more grasses mean more support for cows and horses and other herbivores. On the other hand, fewer trees mean less CO2 is captured out of the atmosphere, as well as diminished habitat for birds and other animals that rely on the trees for survival.

    What the model does offer is an entry point for better policies and decisions to help communities adapt to future changes. "It's just like with the weather," Xu said. "If you don't read the weather report, you have to take what nature gives you. But if you know in advance that it will rain tomorrow, you know to bring an umbrella."

    This work was supported by the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University.

    Original article

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