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Building West Africa’s Earth Observation Marketplace through Carbon Accounting and Service Industrialization

Building West Africa’s Earth Observation Marketplace through Carbon Accounting and Service Industrialization

Estimating national and regional carbon emissions and sequestration is pivotal to countries' environmental responsibility and accountability for global warming. SERVIR West Africa (WA), a collaborative initiative of NASA and USAID, implemented by ICRISAT and partners, provides technical assistance to WA countries in developing and utilizing geospatial tools for informed environmental decision-making.

From 13-17 November, 50 participants, including forest and natural resource management specialists and earth observation experts, actively engaged in training workshops on Land Cover Change Monitoring, Carbon Accounting, and Accuracy Assessments.

The training focused on utilizing open-source tools for mapping land cover and land-use changes over time using Google Earth Engine (GEE). A highlight of the workshop includes the utilization of the SERVIR-Carbon Pilot (S-CAP). S-CAP, a platform designed for tracking deforestation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and associated indicators, is poised to contribute significantly to carbon accounting in West Africa. This initiative leverages the resources of the USAID-funded WABILED (West Africa Biodiversity and Low Emissions Development) and SERVIR activities.

Within the specific framework of SERVIR, S-CAP is anticipated to bring substantial benefits to Earth Observation services operating in the Ecosystem and Carbon Management sector. This encompasses monitoring activities such as Galamsey (artisanal mining), charcoal production, and Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration services.

Ms. Edwina Anderson from the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERGIS), Ghana, expresses her excitement about the workshop's impact, emphasizing the invaluable collaboration with participants from NASA and various West African countries.

"I’m truly amazed by our different experiences with the diverse panels throughout the sessions. The workshop has been powerful, bringing together people from Boston University and NASA in the U.S. and from different West African countries. As a SERVIR WA Galamsey service team member, I use GEE and geospatial tools to analyze the extent of degradation in the forest reserve areas and cocoa farmlands over time. In this regard, I learned about the Continuous Change Detection and Classification (CCDC). It is a powerful technique that helps us detect small-scale mining areas and understand the changes over the years. The workshop has equipped us with the knowledge to inform the public and policymakers about the impact of Galamsey on degraded lands. I am grateful for the different perspectives shared during the sessions."

Mr George Owusu from CERGIS highlights the benefits of the training, particularly in utilizing cloud computing for classification and the significance of CCDC for the Galamsey and charcoal services.

"The training on using cloud computing, specifically with CCDC, has been very beneficial. In my organization, CERGIS, we have worked on Galamsey and charcoal projects for about five years, especially with the SERVIR program. The software will help us with data collection and analysis. This training will enhance our ability to classify images and detect changes more efficiently. It will also help us estimate carbon stocks based on the data sets from Galamsey and charcoal production. The program has been hands-on, focusing on lectures and practical applications with GEE and CCDC software. This new knowledge will significantly benefit our work and contribute to environmental restoration efforts."

Dr Emil Cherrington, Ecosystem and Carbon Management Thematic Area Lead and West Africa Regional Science Coordination Lead with SERVIR at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, AL, USA), highlights the shift from land cover to greenhouse gas emissions in EO applications and emphasizes the collaborative efforts with institutions in the region.

"There has been significant progress in land cover and change detection using EO, and there is a growing interest in understanding how different regions contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The WABILED program, funded by USAID, aligns with this vision. The scientific work that NASA is doing with ICRISAT, AFRIGIST, AGRHYMET, AIMS, CERGIS, ISESTEL, CSE, and other partners aims to strengthen capacity in this area. We aim to replicate successful projects and build on the progress made in Ghana and other WA countries. The region can benefit collectively from these initiatives,” Dr. Emil Cherrington says.


“Our scientific work also extends to supporting gender and economic analyses, translating carbon estimates into monetary values. While we aim to replicate projects globally, we adhere to a co-development process with various stakeholders, ensuring a comprehensive approach that considers gender dynamics and power structures on the ground," adds Dr. Diana K. West, Gender Equity and Social Inclusion Lead, SERVIR Science Coordination Office, NASA.

The training on Land cover change monitoring, carbon estimation, and accuracy assessments was organized with the support of NASA Applied Science Teams from Boston University and the University of Florida, working with the SERVIR West Africa hub under the Ecosystem and Carbon Management thematic area. The Boston University’s project monitors deforestation and forest degradation across West Africa. In contrast, the University of Florida’s project addresses land-use planning for Ghana and monitoring artisanal mining (Galamsey) with UAV systems. The training was organized in collaboration with AFRIGIST (Nigeria) as SERVIR West Africa Capacity Building Lead.

SERVIR WA General Assembly and Strategy Meetings pave the way for the industrialization of EO services.

Held concurrently, the SERVIR WA General Assembly and Strategy Meetings discussed the industrialization of EO services to ensure that they deliver the results that users expect. Industrialized EO services must be developed based on proven scientific and technical methods whose workflows must be reproducible, repeatable, error-free, and compliant with an explicit Service Level Agreement (EUGENIUS, 2017). Participants explored the use of Application Readiness Levels (ARLs) and Dynamic Portfolio Management tools to enable the reliable delivery of fit-for-purpose services that remain compliant with the quality and timeliness standards set by the users.

“Free flowing data and information that informs public policy and development while encouraging local involvement is the key to addressing many challenges. Co-developing services with end-users will reduce West Africa’s vulnerability and encourage broad-based economic growth in the region. This can be accomplished by SERVIR’s application of open science and co-development tools that allow for evidence-based decision-making,” notes Mr Kevin McGlothlin, Director of Regional Economic Growth, USAID/West Africa.
“The strength of SERVIR West Africa is based on its consortium of five regional institutions. ​ We are seeking to enable these institutions to be relevant in the emerging EO marketplace as we move from mandates to markets ‘’ concludes Dr Paul Bartel, Chief of Party, SERVIR WA.

SERVIR WA, implemented by ICRISAT as lead, is a hub composed of nine national, regional, and international organizations.

Participants during the training workshops on Land Cover Change Monitoring, Carbon Accounting, and Accuracy Assessments and strategy meetings. Photos. E. Cherrington, NASA.

Participants to SERVIR WA General Assembly and Strategy Meetings. Photo. A. Diama, ICRISAT.
Participants to SERVIR WA General Assembly and Strategy Meetings. Photo. A. Diama, ICRISAT.

Header picture: Participants training workshops on Land Cover Change Monitoring, Carbon Accounting, and Accuracy Assessments. Credit. E. Cherrington, NASA.

Agathe Diama
Agathe Diama Senior Communications Specialist – West and Central Africa
West & Central Africa Digital Agriculture
About The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is a pioneering International Organization committed to developing and improving dryland farming and agri-food systems to address the challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and environmental degradation affecting the 2.1 billion people residing in the drylands of Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and beyond.

ICRISAT was established under a Memorandum of Agreement between the Government of India and the CGIAR on the 28 March 1972. In accordance with the Headquarters Agreement, the Government of India has extended the status of a specified “International Organisation” to ICRISAT under section 3 of the United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act, 1947 of the Republic of India through Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. UI/222(66)/71, dated 28 October 1972, issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

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