Senegal and Pakistan collaborate on remote sensing

Views of West Africa from space can help solve the region's food problems Copyright: Flickr/NASA Goddard

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[ABIDJAN] Researchers at Senegal’s Centre for Ecological Monitoring (Centre de Suivi Ecologique, CSE), in Dakar, and the Inter-Islamic Network on Space Sciences and Technology (ISNET), based in Karachi, Pakistan,have agreed to collaborate on space technologies to boost food production in Senegal.

CSE director-general, Aziz Touré, told Scidev.Net said that in addition to government policies such as increasing food imports, space technology — particularly remote sensing — could help solve the country’s food problems.

According to Touré, population growth creates high demand for food, putting pressure on food security in developing countries and increases dependence on foreign markets. The situation is exacerbated by climate change, as experience through extreme meteorological events.

Abdoul Aziz Diallo, president of the Senegalese Red Cross, said Senegal is one of the most food crisis-affected countries in the Sahel region. "Some 800,000 people are affected by food insecurity," he told Scidev.Net.

Ahmad Bilal, president of ISNET, which exists under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH), said that satellites were able to cover many areas of a country.

"With remote detection, one can therefore exploit information gathered through the use of these space technologies," he said. Such technologies "constitute a precious contribution in the field of accurate agriculture, crop control, output valuation and meteorological forecasting".

Bilal said a workshop held in Dakar last month (9-14 July), which was attended by researchers from Senegal and ISNET, had been an opportunity for ISNET member countries to establish a permanent collaboration on space technology applications to improve food security.

Key focus areas for collaboration would include farming land management; the evaluation of factors causing crop damage, including water availability and weather patterns; the evaluation of damage caused by floods, cyclones, bushfires, extreme cold, and earthquakes; and the evaluation of agro-meteorological data of lands and soils.

Ismaila Diop, principal private secretary at Senegal’s Environment Ministry, said food security was an urgent issue for African leaders.

"The collaboration between the Senegalese experts and those of the ISNET network allows us to find solutions to climate change [impacts on] agricultural development and food stability in Africa," Diop told Scidev.Net.