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Cablegate: Kenya Wants Greater Access to Geospatial Imagery to Reduce

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RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 0079
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TAGS: SENV ENRG KGHG ECON KE
SUBJECT: KENYA WANTS GREATER ACCESS TO GEOSPATIAL IMAGERY TO REDUCE
CONFLICT AND PROMOTE DEVELOPMENT


1. Summary: Speaking at a recent international conference in
Nairobi, Kenya's Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai said
that increased access to geospatial information can help countries
like Kenya to improve management of natural resources, reduce
conflict promote sustainable use of resources, and adapt to climate
change. She challenged attendees to bridge the technology gap in
this area between rich and poor countries. The United States
continues to provide geospatial information through imagery,
training and research, and U.S. LANDSAT satellite imagery is viewed
as an opportunity to "fast-track" development. Maathai and others
believe NASA and other USG agencies should increase the availability
of inexpensive, high resolution, timely imagery and resources as a
means to reduce or prevent environmental degradation and resulting
conflicts over water, land, and animal resources. End Summary.

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Africa Cannot Afford to Fall Further Behind
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2. "Geospatial Technology for Biodiversity Conservation and
Management" was the theme of the July 18-20 Society for Conservation
Geographic Information Systems (SCGIS) conference sponsored by the
United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the Gordon and Betty
Moore Foundation. Some two hundred attendees heard from a variety
of guest speakers, including Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate
Wangari Maathai, who promoted increasing awareness of technology and
its application in Kenya, and exposing young people and policymakers
to the possibilities and potentials of geospatial technology. She
said GIS technology is an inexpensive method for assessing past and
current conditions as well as modeling future implications of land
use activities. She believes policy-makers, donors and local
communities will increasingly rely on GIS technology to more
effectively manage resources and mediate conflicts over limited
resources.

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"Ring the Bell" on Climate Change
---------------------------------

3. Maathai claimed there is not enough concern and anxiety in
Africa concerning climate change, even though it is understood that
Africa will be significantly impacted, and she directed her audience
to "ring the bell" on the importance of mitigating the impact. She
cited the example of the billion tree-planting campaign launched by
UNEP and the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry
(ICRAF) as a symbolic effort to energize people around the world to
do something about the environment. Prof. Maathai emphasized each of
the delegate's carbon footprints, including carbon emitted en route
to the meeting through aircraft, automobiles, and even walking. She
encouraged everyone to plant ten trees to account for their carbon
dioxide emissions.

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Conflict Over Resources
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NAIROBI 00003167 002 OF 003


4. A common theme within the conference was the conflict over
resources between different groups of people and between humans and
wildlife. One speaker cited examples of participatory geographic
information systems (PGIS) in Tanzania in which communities use
geospatial maps to identify regions of conflicts over resources and
negotiate boundaries. Such tools will become increasingly important
as the population continues to grow and resources decline. In a
follow-up discussion with EconOff, Dr. Tesfaye Korme of the Regional
Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) noted the
current violent land disputes in the Mt. Elgon region of Kenya and
discussed the history of using geospatial technology to establish
boundaries and reduce land conflicts in the region. Korme expressed
his appreciation for the important role NASA and other USG agencies
played in establishing the facility in 1975, contributing remote
sensing data, and enabling the center to serve as a focal point in
geospatial research, training and distribution. Korme specifically
commended a proposed early flood warning project with NASA.

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Successful Applications of GIS in Kenya
---------------------------------------

5. A few strong examples showed how using GIS for monitoring the
environment can influence policy and humanitarian applications.
Elephants are a key tourist attraction, but are in growing conflict
as people encroach upon reserves. Male elephants seeking higher
quality food during reproductive periods commonly leave protected
areas at night to graze in farmers' fields, resulting in conflict
and death on both sides. Using GIS in combination with other
technologies, researchers are able to track their movements and try
to limit harm. Dr. Mohammed Said of the International Livestock
Research Institute (ILRI) highlighted the use of GIS in poverty
mapping for the allocation of development funds and evaluating
advances in overcoming poverty. Mr. Christian Lambrechts of UNEP
used time series images to graphically demonstrate the loss of
forest in the Maasai Mara. The images evoked a very strong response
from the government; recovery efforts are currently underway.

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Comment
-------

6. The conference was well attended and the participants were very
enthusiastic regarding the many uses of GIS technology to support
conservation and conflict resolution in Kenya. The consensus among
attendees was that, through sustainable management of resources,
humans and wildlife could get along in harmony. The USG continues
to make geospatial information available by providing imagery,
training and research. Despite concerns about time delays and poor
image resolution, many individuals expressed their appreciation for
U.S. LANDSAT satellite imagery, saying it is the most usable and
affordable GIS resource to help "fast-track" development.
Researchers and practitioners are anxious to expand the use and
application of geospatial analysis in the fields of conservation,
policymaking, poverty alleviation and conflict resolution. USG
efforts to provide more affordable, timely, high resolution imagery

NAIROBI 00003167 003 OF 003


will contribute to these shared goals and to the U.S.-Kenya
partnership.
RANNEBERGER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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