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The European Space Agency’s Envisat satellite provides data for the TIGER Initiative, which employs space technology to improve water resource management in Africa.

The South African National Space Agency (Sansa) reported that more than 200 water resource management specialists from across Africa received training last month in the use of near real-time satellite data to make the best use of the continent’s limited water resources.

The training program formed part of the European Space Agency (ESA) Tiger Initiative, which is concerned with employing space technology to improve water resource management in Africa. The December workshop was focused on the needs of the Southern African Development Community countries.

The Tiger Initiative was launched in 2002 in South Africa, following the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, but the latest annual workshop was the first to be held in this country. “Our partnerships with South Africa have always been important pillars in our initiative,” saidESAprogram manager Dr. Diego Fernandez-Prieto, “the Tiger concept was launched in South Africa and has been strongly supported by the Ministry of Water Affairs here.”

“The use of satellite technology is integral to water resource management. Water can be monitored from space at several different stages of the hydrological cycle using Earth observation (EO) satellites,” noted Tiger Initiative principle investigator Professor Bob Su. “A critical focus of the Tiger Initiative is to build capacity among water sector professionals in Africa to ensure that EO data is applied effectively in managing the region’s water.”

“We are seeing excellent results from programme participants who are now using satellite imagery,” reported Fernandez-Prieto. “Many have published research papers in the field and succeeded in securing the support from local authorities and government entities in their countries to improve water resource management practices.”

Sansa CEODr. Sandile Malinga cited the case of the Share Project, which falls under the Tiger Initiative and is led by the Vienna University of Technology in Austria and includes the University of Kwazulu-Natal as a user partner. It uses images from EO satellites, particularlyESA’s Envisat.

Share “addressed one of South Africa’s key challenges in water resource management, namely the lack of readily available, reliable soil moisture information at weekly intervals,” explained Malinga. “Soil moisture information is critical in agriculture, which forms the backbone of many rural communities in the country.”

Sansa, the Water Research Commission and the Department of Water Affairs, were the local organisers and hosts. The workshop was organised, on behalf ofESA, by the Tiger Capacity Building Facility of the Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation faculty of the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

Source: Engineering News

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