Fisherman off the coast of Sierra Leone, West Africa. CIESIN led a vulnerability assessment of the fishing communities of Sierra Leone for the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA-BiCC) project.
Awareness is growing of the vital importance of evidence-based decision making in Africa, for example, in agricultural development, natural resource management, and climate vulnerability assessment. CIESIN continues to work actively to address key African data needs through a number of different projects and initiatives, including the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and operated by Rothamsted Research; the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA-BiCC) project of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); and the West Africa SERVIR hub being established jointly by USAID and NASA.
AfSIS is helping several African countries establish national soil information systems and services based on a range of new technologies. Senior research scientist Markus Walsh and deputy director Marc Levy manage CIESIN’s component of AfSIS, which is utilizing soil infrared spectroscopy, remote sensing, crowdsourcing, and other methods to accelerate development of digital soil maps. Such maps support efforts in partner countries Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania to intensify agricultural production sustainably. Ethiopia, for example, has been able to formulate five fertilizer blends and target their use geographically, which is more effective and less harmful than the single blend formerly in use. Swetha Ramaswamy, education and outreach coordinator for AfSIS, is spending more than two months in Africa this spring, working to develop an eLearning course based on AfSIS field and laboratory protocols. The course will be made available in multiple languages through low bandwidth Internet connections.
CIESIN associate director for science applications Alex de Sherbinin and associate research scientist Sylwia Trzaska are leading CIESIN’s activities on improving climate analyses and assessing vulnerability to climate change in Africa. This past spring Trzaska participated in several workshops and meetings for the United Kingdom’s Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) program, in collaboration with colleagues from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). These meetings addressed a range of climate information issues, including the use of seasonal climate forecasts and “downscaling” of data to meet local needs. For the WA-BiCC project, Trzaska led a vulnerability assessment in the coastal areas of Sierra Leone, involving field data collection on household poverty, livelihoods, and environmental perceptions as well as mangrove data collection. She also led the data analysis, which involved several CIESIN staff members. Senior research associate Pinki Mondal is also contributing to the project, through an analysis of mangrove degradation along the coast of Sierra Leone using remote sensing data. For the new West African SERVIR node, CIESIN is assisting the prime contractor, Tetra Tech ARD, in developing technical capacity among consortium members and providing technical expertise on geospatial data acquisition, analysis, and application in support of national and regional decision making in the region.