Training: EO for M&E in the Sahel and West Africa

The EO4SD- Agriculture and Rural Development cluster provides the SAWAP team with tools and indicators for better evaluating and monitoring the SAWAP objectives, execution and achievements. OSS, responsible organisation for monitoring and evaluation of the SAWAP program, invited the EO4SD – Agriculture and Rural Development cluster to participate in the “Regional workshop for exchanges &training on M&E of SAWAP program” that took place in Cotonou (Benin) from 23 to 28 October.  

The vision of a Great Green Wall across Africa is a metaphor that depicts a mosaic of sustainable land uses and community based land and water management practices. It is a game-changer for Africa with the potential to strengthen local resilience to climate change, preserve rural heritage and improve the livelihood of local populations that heavily depend on agriculture and sustainable exploitation of natural resources which are affected by frequent and severe droughts.

The World Bank (WB), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS), the Permanent Inter-States Committee for Drought and Desertification Control in the Sahel (CILSS) and the International Union for the Conservation for Nature (IUCN) work together for the success of the Sahel and West Africa Program (SAWAP) in support of the Great Green Wall and of the BRICKS project (Building Resilience through Innovation, Communication and Knowledge Services) which supports specifically the knowledge/management part of the SAWAP program. As members of the SAWAP working group, they are focused on improving and promoting sustainable land and water management in twelve Sahel-Saharan countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Chad and Togo.

The SAWAP working group continuously monitors the SAWAP program through a set of performance and impact indicators using a variety of data sources. Within SAWAP, OSS is the responsible organisation for monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Among compiling indicators from the countries, OSS uses geographical information systems and remote sensing tools for this. Recently, through the collaboration with the Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) initiative of the European Space Agency, new options are being explored for using EO data and derived services within the SAWAP monitoring and evaluation activities.

In this context, a regional six-day workshop was organised in Cotonou (Benin) from 23 to 28 October to strengthen the capacities of the monitoring and evaluation team of the SAWAP program and its partners. The EO4SD – Agriculture and Rural Development cluster was invited to participate, a choice that shows that the use of new methodologies and technologies for monitoring and evaluation activities is a priority for the Program implementation.

Around 30 participants came together – representatives from the 12 SAWAP countries, from the WB, GEF and BRICKS implementing entities. Altogether they shared their ideas on monitoring activities, and participants were introduced to a wide range of products and tools such as online platforms and databases that have been developed for facilitating the feeding of the indicators which they collect themselves on a country-by-country basis. Alongside this, the participants learnt about how Earth Observation can contribute critical information and data production in an efficient way for monitoring changes in vegetation cover, biomass and land productivity.

Anton Vrieling from ITC – University of Twente and Kees Oude Lenferink from Nelen & Schuurmans, both representing the EO4SD – Agriculture Cluster, presented the ESA’s EO4SD initiative to the audience. First results of the studies and methodologies conducted on Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and the Sahel were at the core of their presentations.

Presentations on Lizard platform and on capacity building activities to take place in the Sahel and West Africa regions were delivered to the participants. In order to ensure a smooth running of the event, simultaneous translations from French to English and vice versa were offered.

During the workshop, the participants were trained on how geospatial data and tools may allow calculating indicators such as vegetation cover evolution for assessing whether project intervention areas have vegetation improvements that significantly differ from similar control sites without intervention. They were also introduced to the EO4SD data and information delivery platform (EO4SD.lizard.net); showing how Earth Observation data, information products and services available at the appropriate scales and timeframes are put at the users’ disposal. The Lizard platform was presented as a tool that can support data portals such as GEOBRICKS – the BRICKS project regional web portal used by OSS and participating countries as a central catalogue for sharing data.

This regional workshop hosted interesting presentations on the methodologies for monitoring carbon sequestration using remote sensing, and the use of Delta, an M&E platform developed by OM Consulting and which allows to collect indicators – used in the SAWAP program –  from the several countries in a fast, reliable and structured manner and also to report on SAWAP’s progress.

This intense week of training allowed participants to meet experts on remote sensing and geo-information as well as to discover the cutting-edge potential of the Earth Observation technology and how it can reinforce the current activities of monitoring and evaluation of the SAWAP and BRICKS activities. This regional workshop in Cotonou was paving the way for future collaborations between SAWAP and EO4SD to further explore and define the EO services that will be used by the SAWAP partners and countries.

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