South African Collaboratory on Applied Remote Sensing for Sustainable Growth

Sub-Saharan Africa

South African Collaboratory on Applied Remote Sensing for Sustainable Growth

Main contact points:

Stewart Bernard: SANSA, South Africa Space Agency; CSRI.
José Luís Moutinho: AIR Center, Atlantic International Research Center

A farmer tends a small herd of cattle by a reservoir, water is scarce as the river is drying up. Copyright: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

This initiative is intended to help promoting the green transition and sustainable growth of South Africa, making use of advanced remote sensing and Earth Observation systems in the context of sub-Saharan Africa. It will leverage and expand current initiatives and networks among SANSA (South Africa Space Agency), Digital Earth Africa and CSIR, together with the networks established by the Atlantic International Research Centre – AIR Centre in South Africa. Emphasis will be in monitoring blue carbon ecosystems to support green growth and grey infrastructures.

Digital Earth Africa: Continental Services

It should be noted that a SANSA “user needs” study has recently showed that over 100 users from over 50 institutes across a wide array of public and private organizations in South Africa aspire to have access to:

  • highly multi-thematic decision support systems indicating risk, vulnerability and opportunity across built and ecological infrastructures;
  • Actionable intelligence for decision making across user archetypes, providing co-designed, highly-synthesized information using easily-used interfaces;
  • More highly skilled and predictive decision support systems, based on the use of multi-thematic artificial intelligence;
  • Intelligence available more frequently and at higher spatial resolution, with dynamic risk & opportunity assessment a high priority;
  • Ability to plan infrastructure based on predictive climate risks and socio-economic impact.

The Earth Observation (EO) value stack refers to the sequential process of adding greater user-focused intelligence to EO data, which is a process critical to broader uptake and economic impact. Ideally this approach maximizes the co-design aspects of development, and allows iterative development along the emerging services value chain.

The installation of the Collaboratory includes a gradual and multi-annual work plan, aimed at implementing and promoting three lines of action, namely: i) Innovation, through a network of new and sustainable business innovations in various regions of South Africa, involving local actors to stimulate new knowledge and innovation activities; ii) observation, namely of land usage, soils and carbon monitoring, as well as of forms of innovation focused on communities and dynamics of sustainable and healthy territories; and iii) capacity building, at individual and institutional levels.

The overall project will benefit from the experience of the following main partners:

  • SANSA:
    • DE Africa & DESA (emerging high-resolution cube);
    • NEO Frontiers (±€4M EO R&D programme);
    • Africultures services & data ecologies;
    • School outreach ±35K students per year;
    • Existing & emerging services, mandate & network;

  • DIGITAL Earth Africa:
    • Established continental EO cloud platform providing powerful & scalable African ownership of cloud & service development;
    • Existing data ecologies, product & services development group;
    • Ability to implement & co-design new ecologies and services;

  • CSIR:
    • Providers of existing MarCoSio (GMES-Africa marine services) and OCIMS (SA national marine services);
    • Strong capabilities in co-designed marine service development and HCD;

  • Atlantic International Research Centre – AIR Centre:
    • International cooperation and network, south-south and south-north/north-south;
    • Existing & emerging services, including through the AIR Centre EO Laboratory in Azores (ESA lab);

Main users in the South African innovation ecosystem include relevant “Actors”, critical “resources” and “enabling environmental institutions”, as follows:

  • AGRI SA – Agriculture industry federated association
  • SADSTIA, SAPFIA, AASA – Fisheries & aquaculture industry associations
  • AGRIKOOL – Agriculture e-commerce platform for small scale
  • ABALOBI – Tech startup adding substantial value to small scale fishers
  • SBWQFT – Community NGO Saldanha Bay Water Quality
  • SACGLF - Southern African Community Grantmakers Leadership Forum
  • SANSA – School science outreach programme
  • CSIR, SAEON, ARC NMU, CPUT, UCT, UP, among others – South Africa tertiary and R&D institutes
  • DBSA, PICC – African development finance & infrastructure
  • Insurance & financial industries
  • SASAE, DALRRD – Agriculture extension services
  • DFFE, DALRRD, DSI, DWS, DoD, DMRE, DoD, among others – National government
  • SANBI - System of Environmental – Economic & Ecosystem Accounting
  • COGTA & District Delivery Model – Local & municipal government

The ultimate goal of the Collaboratory is to leverage and expand current activities on building data ecologies across application domains, such as those from SANSA, DE Africa, MarCoSio/OCIMS, Africultures & NEOFrontiers. This requires bringing together sufficient and appropriate high resolution EO products, through a multi-scale approach in order to be able demonstrating “multi thematic intelligence”, including innovative forms to address the following issues:

  • Food security sustainability & equity for provisioning ecosystem services;
  • Ecosystem restoration for supporting ecosystem services;
  • Carbon bioeconomies & blue carbon;
  • One health approaches to sustainable development;
  • Intelligent integrated risk guidance for development.