NEOSS hosts the Communities of Practice (CoP) integrated workshop

The National Earth Observations and Space Secretariat (NEOSS) hosted Communities of Practice (CoPs) Integrated Workshop, with the theme "Earth Observations to address environmental and social challenges” on 30 May 2023, in Tshwane, Pretoria. The workshop's main objective was to promote and learn about the technical support that is available to develop and implement EO monitoring and space-based solutions to improve the effectiveness of early warning and detection for action in climate change, as well as to facilitate the downscaling of global and national EO products and services for the purposes of disaster preparedness.

EO data and information collected via satellites, airplanes, in-situ measurements, or ground-based monitoring stations can be a valuable and timely source of data and information to address environmental and societal challenges. Understanding some of the problems affecting our society and the environment, such as the effects of climate change, floods, food shortages, and water issues, is crucial.

Numerous international, regional, and national programs and initiatives, of GEO, AfriGEO, IUCN, AUDA-NEPAD, ARC, SANSA, CSIR, CoPs, and private sector initiatives, were presented. The community can use a variety of initiatives, platforms and approaches to track environmental trends and changes in order to provide the public with information about natural disasters or develop innovative EO products and solutions. These include the Water-Energy-Food Nexus approaches, the Oceans and Coastal Management Information Systems, emerging farmers precision support tools, the GEO Global Monitoring of the Environment, Digital Earth South Africa and AUDA geospatial platforms. The speakers at the workshop gave the participants an excellent perspective of the available options accessible locally and around the world.

The workshop also encouraged collaboration amongst stakeholders to ensure open and free access to data and tools as well as advancements in algorithms and data processing for wider uptake and further recognised the importance of promoting EO data and information for use widely and outside the realm of the space specialized scientific communities. These developments offer the chance to increase the number, variety, and dependability of environmental data and indicators which are critical to address societal challenges.

Dr Mmboneni Muofhe, the DSI DDG and GEO Principal, underlined in his opening remarks that "we must consider how to expedite the work that needs to be done as the EO information is essential for connecting people, solving problems, and making decisions" In order for South Africa to profit from the investments previously made, the community should use NEOSS to interact with one another and take advantage of the programs, infrastructure, and initiatives already in place.

SANSA CEO Mr. Humbulani Mudau emphasized the need for collaboration and inclusivity while discussing SANSA's contribution to the development of the nation's space program and Earth observation capabilities. He in particular emphasized the importance of providing opportunities for youth and women in space as South Africa is well-positioned to play that role.

Dr Clement Ardjorlolo stressed the importance of initiatives like NEOSS in linking South Africans to regional platforms and initiatives like AUDA-NEPAD to ensure that everyone has access to all platforms available to aid in mitigating climate change and achieving sustainable development. Access to data for the member countries depends on these platforms.

In order to promote the creation of solutions to create effective societies for sustainable development, Dr. Andile Ngcaba, Founding Partner and Chairman at Convergence Partners Investments, emphasized the significance of strengthening the current programs by government and state agencies by creating an enabling environment for stronger collaboration and partnerships with the private sector.

The second session of the full-day workshop was spearheaded by the CoP Co-Chairs  who took to the podium to share the current activities and initiatives by various CoPs. The initiatives include the following;  

  • Agriculture and Food Security
  • Circular Economy and Natural Resources Management
  • Climate Action
  • Data Governance
  • Earth Observations Infrastructure
  • Satellite Communications and Navigations
  • Human Settlements and Spatial Planning
  • Natural Capital accounting

The occasion also marked a significant turning point toward the GEO Ministerial Summit, which will be held in South Africa from November 6–10, 2023. 

The NEOSS is an initiative of the DSI, which is managed and hosted by the CSIR hosted programmes within BE&I, which aims to coordinate and promote the integrated use of Earth Observations and Space for socioeconomic and environmental benefit.

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By Refilwe Thobega, Media Communication specialist