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Distribution of VEGETATION data in Africa through EUMETCAST

Exploitable results

The European Commission intends to promote the involvement of the developing countries in the Global monitoring for environment and security (GMES) initiative, by ensuring their access to Earth Observation (EO) data, especially from satellite measurement networks. The Vgt4Africa project responds to this EC intention and provides to EO experts in African countries Vegetation derived data and products. The local EO experts can extract valuable information from this data which helps their local policy makers in their decision making processes. In the framework of GMES and in complement to the PUMA and AMESD projects, the Vgt4Africa project aspires to set up and maintain an operational capacity for production as well as timely and free delivery of Vegetation data from the SPOT satellites and high-level derived products to all African countries. The African user community includes all national meteorological services of Africa as well as regional institutions responsible for environmental monitoring. This data should be used to support sustainable development policies in Africa. The main objectives of the Vgt4Africa project were to enable the African experts to work with the delivered environmental information. This objective can be split up in a technical and the human one. The 'technical objective' is to give easy and free access to low resolution EO data products to African users in all African countries via the Eumetcast telecommunications system provided by EUMETSAT. The 'human objective' is to aid the African EO experts in receiving the data and to train them in working with the products. In other words, we could say that we wanted to 'get it there and get it used'! This service is an important step to help African authorities and institutions in fulfilling their environmental monitoring and reporting obligations and in improving the management of their natural resources. The African users can achieve this by developing their own operational environmental monitoring services based on the exploitation of the products delivered through the above-mentioned system. For long-term sustainability, the Vgt4Africa project is part of a larger strategy to which many projects contribute. Five additional Eumetcast stations are actively receiving the Vgt4Africa data nearly double the total number of receivers in comparison to the end of 2006. Quite a few receivers are in preparation as well. Largely thanks to the dissemination of DMP, VPI and SWB data since the end of 2006, the availability of Phenology data since mid 2007 and the promotion of the data in various training and outreach activities, the usage of the Vgt4Africa data enjoyed another big increase in 2007. The data were not only used in the four regional training workshops foreseen in this project and organised by partner JRC. The fourth and final regional training session, hosted by the IGAD region's Climate predication and application centre (ICPAC), was held in September 2007. But the provided products were even used in training sessions organised by third parties, such as the International Institute for Geo-information science and earth observation (ITC). The number of products successfully downloaded from the project website increased five-fold, from 2000 (end of 2006) to around 12 000, representing a total volume of over 200 gigabytes. The number of registered web site users doubled w.r.t. 2006 as well, resulting in over 100 users at the end of 2007, spread over more than 20 different countries. The user community contains a wide variety of users, from PhD students over research institutes, universities to regional centres (spanning an economic or development region of multiple countries) and even international organisations like United Nations Food and agricultural organization (FAO) and World food programme (WFP). The Vgt4Africa data disseminations can thus be seen as a way to reunite multiple research communities, across projects and research themes, at continental scale. The integration of the LAI, fcover and albedo products required more effort than expected. The Phenology products, although ready in mid 2007, needed to be revised because of a technical constraint preventing their Eumetcast dissemination. However, through relentless efforts of the partners - even partly at their own expense in early 2008 - nearly all foreseen products were operationally produced and delivered to users in early 2008. Only Burnt area's final integration tests were postponed until Geoland-2, that is expected to start around mid 2008. This includes an additional ten products, VPI, that was added to the portfolio in 2006. A final user workshop was organised at VITO in November, with ten different users from all corners in Africa. At this workshop, the partners gathered user feedback, which is important for the further continuation and strategy of this work. A lot of effort also went into the continuity of Vgt4Africa's efforts, for instance through a number of follow-on or related activities like FP7 Geoland, FP7 Devcocast, Vgt@Work, ACP observatory and African Union Commission's AMESD initiative.