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Transforming Weather Water data into value-added Information services for sustainable Growth in Africa

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TWIGA (Transforming Weather Water data into value-added Information services for sustainable Growth in Africa)

Reporting period: 2018-02-01 to 2019-07-31

The African continent is particularly underserved when it comes to geo-services related to weather, water, and climate. At the same time, people in Africa are very much dependent on these factors for their livelihoods and are, as such, very vulnerable to climate change and variability. Although much progress has been made over the past decades in satellite-based Earth observation and modeling of relevant processes in the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere, on-the-ground observations are actually diminishing. Traditional sensors for ground observations are not always suitable for the African context due to extreme weather and lack of technical expertise and infrastructure. TWIGA will design, build, and operate a suite of new sensors that will form the starting point of new geoservices for urban and rural users. The main scientific paradigm is to develop smart combinations of new sensor data with satellite and modelling to extract actionable information.
A total of twenty services are foreseen. To give the general approach some texture, three examples are given here. First, cost efficient rain gauges that do not have moving parts will be combined with satellite observations and hydraulic models to provide early warnings for rapid flooding of urban areas. Another example is the use of citizen observations of crop status in combination with a crop model and UAV maps to provide irrigation and phytosanitary advice to farmers. A final example concerns consumer-grade GPS receivers and satellite radar images to determine atmospheric moisture field, which will greatly improve the ability of national meteorological agencies to predict heavy convective rainstorms.
Important starting activity was the in-depth analysis of user needs. Over 40 interviews were held with potential end-users in the water, agriculture, energy, insurance, and flood resilience sectors. On the basis of the analysis, 18 services were identified that could be built in the early stages of the project. Of these, five were selected as priority services, based on their potential impact and the feasibility of rapid implementation.

Extensive field testing of several experimental sensor has started, some of which have produced useful results. The UAVs have produced very relevant new information for crop status and flood monitoring. Several citizen science apps have been developed and field-tested for measuring crops stages and rainfall. Data are now flowing into the TWIGA platform, on which further services will be built. Data are now also made available through the GEOSS.
Our inventory of potential services and discussions with potential stakeholders have helped to streamline the early activities within TWIGA, thereby accelerating the development of the first five services. The interactions with farmers, especially in Ghana and Kenya, has helped us to tune the services needed, thereby increasing the potential impact.
New sensors, including those based on citizen science, are very much at the scientific core of TWIGA. In the proposal, ten new sensors were put forward at different Technology Readiness Levels. Work on most sensors has taken place with special efforts going to the evaporometer, intervalometer/disdrometer, GNSS (GPS) water vapour measurement, the flood mapper and crop doctor. Also for new sensors, such as the floating plastic sensor, proof-of-concept have been built to continuously feed the innovation pipeline from sensor to service.
The TWIGA data platform has been built and is operational, although further features will be needed. A set of micro-services has been developed that link data sources to the platform. Service delivery through the platform has now reached demo, proof-of-concept, or pilot stages. Data and metadata formats have been implemented that support GEOSS. New sensors and, especially, citizen science data, demand special quality control and calibration for which a framework has been put in place.