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Next steps for African Water Cycle Coordination Initiative

The 3rd Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) African Water Cycle Symposium, hosted by the Gabonese Agency for Space Study and Observations (AGEOS), identified river basins and activities for inclusion in the initial phase of the African Water Cycle Coordination Initiative (AfWCCI).

Held in Libreville, Gabon, from 27-29 February, the meeting welcomed over 80 participants from 21 countries, including 16 African nations and eight river basin organizations. It considered the recommendations from the GEO-UNESCO Joint Workshop on Earth Observations and Capacity Development for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) for River Basins in Africa, which was held a few weeks earlier in Nairobi, Kenya (see previous article).

The Symposium was opened by Gabonese Minster of Energy Mr. R. Immongault. He noted the commitment of the Gabonese Republic to the capture and application of Earth observations to national and regional problem-solving. This commitment has been illustrated by the establishment of the Gabonese Spatial Study and Observation Agency (AGEOS) and the development of the Monitoring of the Environment Assisted by Satellite (SEAS)-Gabon project in coordination with Brazil and France. This project will fill a gap that currently exists across central Africa by constructing a ground-receiving station in Gabon.

The GEO Secretariat Director underscored the importance of nations across Africa taking advantage of these new opportunities to forge their own destinies before advances in technology make it possible to outsource national analyses to other areas of the world.

Demonstration projects

Symposium outcomes included an eight-step outline of the strategy for the AfWCCI as it launches demonstration projects during the coming year. These projects will demonstrate the value of Earth observations and information and the benefits of sharing data throughout a basin. They will serve as a model for regional cooperation, enabling scientists, practitioners, decision-makers, citizens and other stakeholders to work together towards achieving sustainable development.

Milestones included the identification of transboundary river basins across Africa that will commit to participating in the Initiative, the development and application of the GEOSS Water Cycle Integrator as a function of river basin needs, coordination with capacity building and research partners, and the establishment of a work plan based on initial results.  The results and work plan will then be submitted to overseas donor agencies to explore funding possibilities in order to expand the Initiative. A 4th Symposium will be held a year from now to review progress on the milestones.

The Symposium also produced the Libreville Statement, which stresses the importance of Earth observations for both integrated water resources management (IWRM) and more broadly the transition to a Green Economy that will be promoted by the United Nations Rio + 20 Conference on Sustainable Development. The Gabonese government will work towards promoting the Statement at Rio+20 as a response to the African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW) Ministerial Declaration on Accelerating Water Security for Africa’s Socio-Economic Development, which stresses the need for Member States to strengthen their information and knowledge base and monitoring capacities.