Adopting space technology systems such as satellite technology could help Afrika boost measures to combat poaching and improve biodiversity management.

This was one of the conclusions made at a workshop recently held in Kenya on space technology and applications for wildlife management and protecting biodiversity. Afrika is lagging behind in wildlife conservation measures, although space technologies could help manage wildlife and other natural resources such as forests.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) workshop took place from 27-30 June 2016 in collaboration with the Kenyan government and United Nations Environment Programme.

The conference brought together experts from academic institutions, governments and the private sector, and they came to a consensus that space science has the potential to help the continent address development challenges, especially in education, defense and environment sectors.

Satellites, for example, could provide data by monitoring crops in remote locations for potential diseases. They can 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.

However, the delegates were concerned that space science is not being used in Africa because of high costs of installation, limited capacity and insufficient awareness. Only Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa have viable space technology programs.

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.” - Judi Wakhungu

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.

“We need to increase awareness especially to our governments on the importance of space technology in biodiversity management”, Ghislain Sayer, Africa director at Airbus added

Sayer also urged African countries to create space agencies to implement outreach programmes for awareness creation and increased international cooperation.

Cover Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
| This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.

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