Leveraging Space Technologies to Achieve SDG 13 – Climate Action

The Sustainable Development Goal 13 (SDG 13) urges to “take action to combat climate change and its impacts”. Climate change is affecting virtually every country on every continent. Notably, many countries in Africa are vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather events because of their limited ability to cope and adapt to those events. As a result, it is disrupting national economies and claiming lives. 

To effectively monitor the progress in SDG 13, the UN developed five targets in total, all of which cover a wide range of issues surrounding climate action. The first three targets are “output targets”, while the remaining two are the means of achieving these targets.

The  three outcome targets:

  • Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries;
  • Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning;
  • Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.

The two means of achieving these targets include:

  • Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilising jointly USD 100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalise the Green Climate Fund through its capitalisation as soon as possible;
  • Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in the least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalised communities.
Benefits of space technologies to the realisation of SDG 13 
  • Climate change monitoring and early warning systems
  • Weather forecasting
  • Disaster management
  • Search and rescue operations
Utilising space technologies for SDG 13 in Africa

For Africa to reduce the risk and loss due to extreme weather events, the continent must continue to embrace and invest in technologies that support climate adaptation, which involves accurate and timely weather forecasts to any individual, business, or government. Also, reducing the physical and financial risks is critical as weather extremes are predicted to occur with both increasing frequency and severity in the coming years. 

Space technologies are employed against climate change, disasters and disease outbreaks in Africa. For example, the OpenStreetMap initiative and many other navigation applications have been used for search and rescue missions and to put previously unmapped areas on the map. Furthermore, satellite data are becoming more open-source, and this availability makes weather forecasts and policy decision-making easier and proactive. Also, the data aids preparation and makes targeted relief programmes or policies more successful.

Furthermore, data requirements in crop insurance are highly complex and multidisciplinary. Therefore, creating a robust digital infrastructure can significantly enhance existing methods. To this effect, Agritask and Hollard Mozambique are providing digital solutions to local stakeholders by offering crop insurance for farmers in their respective locales. To enable the use of high-resolution data at a national scale, the platform creates a village-based geographical clusterisation for the entire country. In addition, it integrates additional data layers to enhance risk assessment. Also, insured farms will be registered and mapped onto the platform, offering them real-time tracking of relevant parameters at each farm plot. The partnership will include data capturing tens of thousands of smallholders initially, expecting to increase ten-fold. 

Similarly, drought remains the most destructive cause of losses in agriculture and water resources in Africa as it causes widespread human and animal mortalities. In addition, sub-Saharan Africa is considered the most vulnerable region to climate change due to low rainfall, prolonged dry seasons, and high poverty levels. However, a better knowledge of such weather conditions, such as flooding and drought and how they will impact agricultural productivity is crucial to countering such adverse effects and is a prerequisite to proffering solutions to cushion the effects. Therefore, it is essential to provide and empower small scale farmers, who generate more than half of Africa’s agricultural produce, with the data needed to combat the adverse effects of drought. To this effect, ITIKI (Information Technology and Indigenous Knowledge) Drought Predictor, a mobile platform that combines meteorological data with traditional farming knowledge and utilises an app and SMS messages to send farmers forecasts on drought. ITIKI, launched in 2016, has over 15,000 subscribers [small-scale farmers] in Kenya, Mozambique, and South Africa. The solution delivers real-time data solutions to smallholder farmers at low costs and in their indigenous language enabling them to take proactive steps towards decision-making and cultivation. 

Also, the Southern African Development Community-Climate Services Centre (SADC-CSC) addresses riverine flood monitoring and assessment; agriculture seasonal monitoring; early warning and assessment; rangeland seasonal monitoring; and early warning and assessment. SADC-CSC also attends to seasonal wildfire monitoring, as well as early warning and assessment. Similarly, the Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) is set up to mitigate constrained wetland assessment and monitoring. To that end, SASSCAL utilises an integrated web-based platform to analyse and integrate information from various sources, including EO and in-situ, to assess wetlands conditions, and provide wetland information services to target groups and end-users. The SASSCAL consortium covers river basins of the SADC region, and institutional members include the University of Botswana, South African National Space Agency, South Africa National Remote Sensing.

In addition, the IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Centre (ICPAC) covers East Africa’s IGAD region. ICPAC addresses natural habitat conservation, forest degradation and deforestation; seasonal agricultural monitoring, early warning and assessment; rangeland seasonal monitoring, early warning and assessment. In addition, it provides wildlife and conservation authorities with maps and predictive information on human-wildlife conflicts and forage availability and distribution. 

Furthermore, the Space Climate Observatory (SCO), through its free and open data policies and satellite data products, furnishes decision-makers with EO data and tools needed to implement sustainable socio-economic development at the continental, regional and national levels. The SCO has since established 56 projects particularly to address SDG 13. Specifically, six of these projects have been launched in several African states, including Chad, Gabon, Madagascar, Morocco and Senegal. In addition, the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), a reform accelerator in Central Africa, intends to mitigate climate change, preserve forests, reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable development. The project provides funding of USD 18.4 million managed by the French Development Agency (AFD) as an implementing partner. Furthermore, it will be implemented over a five years period [between 2018 and 2022].

Furthermore, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has launched an automated Aeronautical Search and Rescue System at the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). The system will enhance efficiency in response to aeronautical Search and Rescue operations in the country. This is a move from the old manual systems which were previously in operation. The new system is powered by satellite technology and will help to pinpoint the location of aircraft which will advance search and rescue operations at the airport. 

However, as climate change brings about a potential socioeconomic crisis for Africa, especially for the most vulnerable who are forced to adapt to its consequences, a global weather intelligence solution could potentially turn this crisis into an opportunity enabling inclusive climate action. To this end, TomorrowNow.org, an international non-profit helping vulnerable communities adapt to climate change, was awarded a USD 2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop innovative weather intelligence for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The 18-month project will build the foundation for boosting crop resilience and improving food security globally. Also, TomorrowNow.org will collaborate with partners such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and Tomorrow.io to develop tools for seed breeders, crop modellers and on-farm managers to close the weather data gap and turn forecasts into action. In addition, the project will connect advanced weather solutions, including high-resolution weather models and satellite data, with climate innovators to build sustainable pathways for global access to decision support technologies.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.