As a result of close cooperation between the European Commission, the African Regional Economic Communities, the ACP Secretariat, the African Union Commission and EUMETSAT, a succession of projects have been organised to help African countries get better access to Earth observation data. The focus for the initial PUMA project was to provide access to satellite data for weather forecasting. The objective of the subsequent AMESD and MESA projects address the provision of data for climate and environmental monitoring.
PUMA: paving the way (2001-2006)
PUMA (Preparation for the Use of MSG in Africa), was the first pan-African technology project focusing on Earth observation funded by the European Union and has vastly enhanced weather forecasting capabilities across the African continent. A total of 53 EUMETCast stations were deployed in all African National Meteorological Services and regional centres to ensure operational and real-time access to relevant data and products.
Access to this data has enabled African National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) to provide more accurate weather forecasts, monitor extreme weather events, improve disaster management, and forestall drought and starvation.
Six PUMA pilot projects enhanced the use of Earth observation data beyond meteorological applications, i.e. for marine resources, agriculture, river and environmental management. The PUMA project was funded through the 8th European Development Fund of the European Union and implemented by the Kenyan Meteorological Department, acting on behalf of and under the steering of the African Regional Economic Communities.
The African Monitoring of Environment for Sustainable Development (AMESD) project took PUMA a step further by significantly extending the use of remote sensing data for environmental and climate monitoring applications. On a practical level it also involved installing 111 new EUMETCast stations (one per sub-Saharan African country) and upgrading the EUMETCast stations already provided in the framework of the previous PUMA project.
By extending the operational use of Earth observation technologies and data from meteorological to environment and climate monitoring applications, AMESD enabled African national and regional institutions, as well as the continent’s NMHSs, to provide decision-makers with the information needed to manage their environment more effectively and ensure long-term sustainable development in the region. Most importantly, AMESD aimed to improve the lives and prospects of the 350 million disadvantaged people in Africa, who currently endure poverty and hardship and whose livelihoods depend heavily on their environment.
The Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) programme builds on the results obtained in PUMA and AMESD and is the first contribution to the GMES and Africa and ClimDev-Africa initiatives of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy. MESA consolidates and widens the operational environmental services developed in AMESD, and proposes new services, such as African climate services.
The purpose of the MESA project is: “to increase the information management, decision-making and planning capacity of African continental, regional and national institutions mandated for environment, climate, food security and related responsibilities by enhancing access to and exploitation of relevant Earth Observation applications in Africa.”
The project’s focus is to strengthen the use of Earth observation data in Africa, with emphasis on climate and environment applications. Among other activities, MESA plans to secure the maintenance and upgrading of EUMETCast receiving stations deployed through AMESD and to support the development of operational services based on Earth Observation data.
MESA is also introducing a continent-wide and thematic transversal theme “Support to Climate Services (climate change monitoring)”. This theme has been proposed by the African Regional Economic Communities and the African Union Commission with the aim of receiving pertinent information for developing, implementing and monitoring their climate policies. MESA goes down to the national, regional and continental levels. This MESA theme is closely linked with the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) and the ClimDev-Africa initiative. It will support the African meteorological community in the development or strengthening of their capacity to deliver appropriate climate information to decision-makers in their countries and regions.