Five African Projects Benefit as UK Space for Sustainable Development Projects Receive £3.4 Million funding

CABI PRISE project. Plant doctors in Ghana alerting farmers how to treat pest-diseased crops (credit: UK Space Agency)

The UK Space Agency has announced £3.4 million of new funding for 10 leading-edge projects that back UK academics using space to tackle global development problems – from the spread of malaria to human trafficking and forced labour. 5 out of these projects have been selected to be hosted in African countries.

These projects will develop solutions to global challenges that will open up new opportunities for UK space expertise to help countries overseas to deal with myriad problems. Science Minister Amanda Solloway mentioned that “from flooding to climate change, around the world people continue to be affected by crises that are having a profound impact on their countries’ economies and their lives. These 10 new projects have the potential to provide solutions to the world’s biggest development problems by using the latest and most high-tech space technologies such as satellites, and help improve millions of people’s lives in developing countries.”

Here are the 5 African beneficiaries:

1. Crop Yield Decision Support in Ghana, led by Assimila Ltd, based in Reading

Big variabilities in crop yields make life difficult for farmers, food supply chain companies and governments seeking to plan and allocate resources. This project will provide information on maize yields in Ghana, such as current yields to help plan harvesting, transport and processing, future yields to inform markets and enhance long term food security and past yields to help farmers benchmark and improve productivity.

The monitoring and forecasting system will be based on the integration of physical crop models, meteorological data and Earth observation satellite imagery.  Information will be provided to farmers, supply chain actors, governments and international organisations.

2. Anti-trafficking using Satellite Technology for Uganda’s Sustainability (ASTUS), led by University of Nottingham 

ASTUS aims to tackle human trafficking and forced labour. It will develop a stakeholder-informed data-driven Earth Observation (EO) approach to support anti-trafficking efforts in Uganda.  

This project’s space-based solution is the development of a Modern Anti-trafficking Support System (MASS) to support anti-trafficking decision-making and response. Ensuring stakeholder buy-in and sustainability of the MASS underpins this project’s activities and are crucial steps in supporting the Ugandan Government in its anti-trafficking efforts.  

3. Earth Observation for Sustainable Aggregate Supply (EO4SAS) in Kenya, led by Pixalytics Ltd, based in Plymouth 

In Kenya, unmanaged extraction of sand and aggregate has potentially serious long-term and wide-ranging impacts.  The EO4SAS service aims to provide Kenya with Earth observation data and ideas on how the country might improve the management of its sand resources.  

The project will deliver insights into aggregate resources, location, scale and practices of extraction sites, extraction rates, flows to markets and environmental changes on the land associated with extraction activities. The final service will improve the monitoring and regulation of aggregate mining and support sustainability in the aggregate supply chain. 

4. gEOthermalKenya: Earth Observation Insights for Sustainable Growth of the Kenyan Geothermal Sector, led by Omanos Analytics, based in Glasgow

Omanos Analytics, in partnership with Global Surface Intelligence (GSI), will be working with the Kenyan National Environment Management Authority to characterise and monitor land-use around current and prospective geothermal power plants in order to support the socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable growth of the Kenyan geothermal sector.  

The project will combine on-the-ground intelligence from local stakeholders with satellite data, application of machine learning algorithms to satellite data, and dissemination of bespoke data products to key stakeholders. 

5. Sat4Wildlife in Kenya, led by Fauna & Flora International, based in Cambridge

Kenya has lost 68% of its wildlife in the last 40 years. This project will harness satellite-enabled technologies and build infrastructure to support collaboration between conservationists and technology experts to help halt the loss of Kenya’s biodiversity, reduce degradation of habitats and conserve local livelihoods which depend on them. 

Led by Fauna & Flora International and WILDLABS in partnership with the Satellite Catapult, ZSL, the Arribada Initiative and Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the project that aims to create an online platform and marketplace which will bring together technology providers and conservationists to create an ecosystem of accessible, effective tools for conservation, for example, the development of an open-source, a land-based animal tracking system to mitigate human-wildlife conflict. These technologies, along with ongoing capacity building and education in Kenya, will form the basis of a physical Centre of Excellence within the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

The other projects are:

  • DETECT: Integrated Space Technology Vector Control in Guyana, led by The Open University
  • Climate-resilient parametric insurance and emergency response for floods in Bangladesh, led by Vivid Economics, based in London
  • SAtellite SArgassum Monitoring System (SASAMS) – developing a real-time monitoring service for Mexico’s Caribbean Coast, led by University of Nottingham 
  • Monitoring Agricultural Productivity for Climate Adaptation – Mongolia (MAPCAM), led by Remote Sensing Applications Consultants Ltd, based in Hampshire
  • RIOS: Re-settlement Information and Observing System in Colombia, led by Institute for Environmental Analytics, University of Reading