According to the workshop, Africa is lagging behind in wildlife conservation measures although space technologies could help manage wildlife and other natural resources such as forests.
“Space applications are fundamental tools for enhancing wildlife and biodiversity conservation which in turn will bring about sustainable development throughout the world.”
Judi Wakhungu, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) workshop on space technology and applications for wildlife management and protecting biodiversity took place in Kenya last month (27-30 June).
The Workshop was organised by UNOOSA in collaboration with the Kenyan government and United Nations Environment Programme.
The conference experts from academic institutions, governments and the private sector said that space science could also help the continent address development challenges, especially in education, defense and environment sectors.
For instance, they said, satellites could provide data by monitoring crops in remote locations for potential diseases. They could also be used to identify crop types and crop growth stages, the extent of logging and deforestation, the availability of water, and to accurately monitor biodiversity in general.
But the delegates were concerned that space science is not being used in Africa because of high costs of installation, limited capacity and insufficient awareness, with only Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa leading in space technologies on the continent.
Kenya’s cabinet secretary for environment and natural resources, Judi Wakhungu, told the conference that the peaceful uses of outer space could provide a powerful tool for furthering the well-being of humanity and the earth's environment.
“Space applications are fundamental tools for enhancing wildlife and biodiversity conservation which in turn will bring about sustainable development throughout the world.” Wakhungu said.
According to the experts, building space technology skills capacity is necessary for Africa to achieve UN’s Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals.
Space science could help find innovative solutions to climate change, insecurity and poaching but there is little capacity to reap the benefits, they added.
Thus, African universities were challenged to create centres of excellence especially in remote sensing, telecommunications, meteorology and navigation.
Jean-Charles Bigot, an aerospace engineer from the European Space Agency, told participants that adopting space technologies could help the continent collect accurate and continuous data on environmental matters that affect biodiversity-threatening activities such as fishing and mining. Ghislain Sayer, Africa’s director for European space company, Airbus, added: “We need to increase awareness especially to our governments on the importance of space technology in biodiversity management.”
In an exclusive interview with SciDev.Net, Sayer explained that awareness will help increase the adoption of satellites that could help in detecting illegal activities such as poaching, and help monitor deforestation and land degradation.
Sayer also urged African countries to create space agencies to implement outreach programmes for awareness creation and increased international cooperation.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.