While the world’s attention was focused on COVID-19, environmental challenges like floods, drought, and deforestation in West Africa did not go away. A partnership formed to help respond to COVID-19 also helped countries develop skills to tackle climate crises.
The Global Partnership worked with its partners to facilitate GIS training in Guinea, Togo, and Senegal. It also organized a three-phase capacity-building exercise on using the UNEP-DHI Flood and Drought Portal for environment monitoring.
Government stakeholders from Guinea, Senegal, and Togo attended the training provided by UNEP. The exercise focused on training trainers so regional institutions could provide technical assistance to their country partners.
The Global Partnership also invited GRID3, which needed data on the portal for ongoing work in Zambia and South Sudan. The process has strengthened collaboration between various institutions by tackling a common SDG-related national goal. It also aims to generate a strong partnership among regional training institutes and knowledge transfer between the three countries and develop knowledge products for public awareness-raising.
“This training was useful for us because it helped us to understand how to use the unit, the UNEP-DHI portal and produce maps, and the level of degradation on the ground,” says Mohamed Alass Sylla from Guinea’s Ministry of Environment, responsible for monitoring forest coverage and drought.
Though the team is still working to validate the data, Sylla says it was helpful to learn how to use the portal, as they can now produce and interpret maps. Once the data is validated, he hopes it will be used in the country’s national reforestation campaign, a presidential initiative.
In Guinea, the skills gained and data generated are bolstering mapping processes to inform decisions by the Presidential National Reforestation Initiative, though there is still a need to validate the findings by completing a field visit to compare satellite data with the reality on the ground. Before using this portal, they had to rely on other data-producing sectors to monitor deforestation, including farming activities.
Gora Mbengue, from Senegal’s Direction de la Planification et de la Veille Environnementale, believes that the partnership with the Global Partnership is “very strategic and important for the country, particularly with regard to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the national level. Indeed, the level of data availability on the SDG indicators identified through this partnership has been significantly improved.”
During the pandemic, the Global Partnership facilitated Senegal’s use of the UNEP-DHI portal, implemented the Data for Now initiative, and conducted data science training in partnership with the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences.
The training has helped Senegal to improve data availability. The plan is to use the skills learned at the training to inform national flood policy as part of the 10-year flood management program.
He says that it also gave his team a baseline to easily assess the effectiveness of policy projects implemented. In addition, it has helped Senegal by saving the time and resources deployed to collect these data, which are easily accessible on the portal.
Aside from COVID-19, in 2020, Senegal suffered severe flooding. This portal will help inform the Government on regions that are under serious risk of flooding, so they can be better prepared.
In Togo, the portal provides access to data that would usually be harder to collect, again saving time and money.
Commandant Feyssal G. Moumouni, the coordinator of Togo Environmental Information System Improvement Project, says it’s essential to monitor Togo’s environmental changes.
“Before this training, we used to get data based on connections and friendships, so you have your friend working in one of the departments or he has the data and is working on a project, sometimes they can supply those. But today, this platform is helping us to get the data on our own, at our own time, and at no cost.”
He hopes it will be used for policies in Togo and that there will be more access to innovations like it in the future. In Togo, the skills gained from the UNEP-DHI training build on ongoing work to develop a national inventory of environmental indicators.
“What was memorable as an innovation was to see more countries working at the same time on this, being trained at the same time and learning from their countries and knowing their context during their presentation,” he says. “It was also like a knowledge-sharing opportunity, so that was also very nice, seeing many countries coming together."