The WeMAST (Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Service for Transboundary Basins in Southern Africa) project aims to design, develop and operationalise an integrated Earth Observation (EO) based platform that can provide wetland information services to target groups and end users. The platform is intended to support the assessment and monitoring of four southern African transboundary basins wetlands: Cuvelai, Limpopo, Okavango and Zambezi.
WeMAST is conceptionalised “with the users – for the users”. The strategy of WeMAST is promoted by its strong user focus, that will systematically and continually ensure an active interaction and collaboration with the user, and more specifically, the stakeholder. With the strong user orientated focus of WeMAST, it is crucial to ensure that any association with WeMAST promotes a sense of trust in the products and services produced.
In this line, the WeMAST project, funded by the GMES and Africa Support Programme and implemented by a consortium led by Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) with partners South African National Space Agency (SANSA), University of Western Cape, South Africa (UWC), Midlands State University, Zimbabwe (MSU), Zambia National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), University of Zambia (UNZA) and University of Botswana (UB), hosted a regional stakeholder engagement and user needs assessment workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe. The workshop was attended by government departments, environmental management agencies, basin commission representatives, water authority representatives, research institutions and academic institutions.
The workshop was officially opened by Prof Doreen Z Moyo, the MSU ProVice Chancellor. “Conservation and management of renewable resources, policy formation and planning within the global context are increasingly becoming important. People living on the planet earth, are hungry for land and thirsty for water, and tensions abound over the resources needed to meet their needs in terms of food and housing among others. A paradigm shift is therefore not only desirable, but essential and massive but crucial efforts will be needed for the collective management of natural resources at both global and local level.” Prof Moyo further emphasised the importance of wetlands for water security, food security, its biodiversity value and for ecosystem services, and commended the WeMAST initiative for its potential impact on ensuring the sustainable management of the regional wetland resources. Prof Moyo concluded by thanking GMES and Africa Support Programme for its contribution to ensure that the wetland resource is protected for future generations.
The objectives of the workshop were to
- Gather information on the needs, expectations and experiences of various stakeholders across the region, on the nature of the EO-based products and services that can be developed to promote sustainable wetland utilisation monitoring and assessment.
- Provide information that can inform the development of products and services that address the needs of the stakeholders and would-be users of the WeMAST platform in line with the project concept ‘with the Users for the Users.’
During the workshop, the WeMAST stakeholders agreed that the WeMAST platform should endeavor to provide products on that support the monitoring and assessment of wetland degradation, by defining indicators for wetland change, prioritised by the stakeholders during the workshop. These include, but are not limited to land cover change, land use change, extent of surface water, water quality and fire frequency.
WeMAST stakeholders further emphasised the importance of outreach for the stakeholders and active communication to ensure that the stakeholders are continually engaged in the WeMAST development process.
It goes without saying that in the current project timeline, implemented by the GMES and Africa Support Programme, not all stakeholder requirements can be met. But the WeMAST consortium endeavors to ensure a sustainable initiative, of which the GMES and Africa funded phase is only a first tranche of WeMAST.