“The Primary Purpose is to Make an Impact in Communities” Sives Govender of CSIR

During the just-concluded GMES and Africa Second Continental Forum, Space in Africa caught up with Sives Govender of The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The council leads the GMES and Africa Africa Marine and Coastal Operations for Southern Africa (MarCOSouth) project. Sives shared insights into the general plans for the next phase and the GMES and Africa programme from MarCOSouth’s perspective. 

What are some of your plans for the second phase?

The CSIR has just submitted its proposal for phase two of GMES and Africa. The four ocean-based consortia will be merged into two consortia. The University of Ghana (UoG) will include all countries in the northern hemisphere. Meanwhile, South Africa’s CSIR will coordinate countries in the southern hemisphere. This includes the small island states of the South Indian Ocean. Once the proposal is accepted by the African Union Commission (AUC’s), we will begin the preparations for the next phase. The CSIR will have a kick-off stakeholder meeting to bring together the current and new partners. We hope that the travel restrictions will abate as we plan to have the meeting no later than June 2022. 

What is the budget for the second phase? 

The total budget for the second phase is around EUR 2.2 million (USD 2.5 million), which is spread across the four years. The budget must be used effectively and with accountability showing high societal impact. To ensure sustainability, institutions getting funding need to provide a fair degree of co-funding. As stated earlier, the primary purpose is to impact communities and not carry out academic research and development exercises. 

Can you give a brief description of some of your past projects?

MarCoSouth, the CSIR lead marine and coastal lead consortia focused on three overall services. These services include Fisheries support where we provide fishers in different sectors and regulators with the tools to optimise fishing effort, improve safety at sea, better understand environmental variability, and monitor Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fisheries and fishing effort.  There will be a particular focus on supporting small scale fishing communities through the ABALOBI partnership (an NGO partner). In terms of Aquaculture support, we support users with the capability to monitor historical and current harmful algal bloom events along the coastline of Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, and Reunion Islands.

Decision-makers will get notified of red-tide occurrences and predict rock lobster walkouts saving millions of dollars. For ship traffic, we provide the capacity to monitor vessels near the southern African coastline in near real-time. Decision-makers can monitor cooperative vessels within their area of responsibility and derive strategic information on illegal or unauthorised vessels.  Safety at Sea is a high priority in the Southern African oceans. We developed the capability to monitor and predict ocean and sea state variables such as wind, currents, and waves. 

Sea search and rescue organisations such as the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) are using this co-developed service to assist with planning sea search and rescue operations.  With our Water Quality application, we monitor various coastal water quality indicators.  Decision-makers are provided with a consolidated view of remote sensing and in-situ sources of water quality data to give them an overall idea of the current situation regarding water quality in specific areas. 

Lastly, our Corral Bleaching application monitors coral reef bleaching occurrences by building new services based on Copernicus products to detect thermal stress.  The service provides the ability to assess historical and real-time bleaching alerts and will provide additional ability to assess other sources of coral stress, such as sand mining.

What are some of your challenges?

A challenge is that most consortia are primarily research organisations that work with policymakers.  There has been a huge paradigm shift to understanding the user community, their needs, the way to package information (spatial analytics desktop, mobile apps to radio/TV) and ensuring high impact services and products. Also, the COVID 19 pandemic made interaction with partners and stakeholders challenging and limited interaction.

How does the consortium get funding?

The primary funding of GMES and Africa projects is through the project grant. Successful consortia receive the funding after the AUC evaluates their proposal. However, as phase two must focus on continuing on existing successful services developed and deployed and not on new R&D, many of the consortia will have to seek co-funding from their organisations.  Funding for GMES and Africa projects require intense stakeholder engagement and communications, and awareness-raising. Therefore, financing workshops, training, and capacity-building activities require prioritisation. 

The CSIR led consortia will seek to get co-funding through our own internal South Africa parliamentary grant application process and from the second phase of the National Ocean and Coastal Information Management System, a project which South Africa’s Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment as well as the Ministry of Science and Innovation funds. The National Oceans and Coastal Information Systems project is complementary to the GMES and Africa MarCoSouth initiative.

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