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

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - TWIGA (Transforming Weather Water data into value-added Information services for sustainable Growth in Africa)

Reporting period: 2021-08-01 to 2022-07-31

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 (data) infrastructure to maintain them. TWIGA has designed, built, and operating a suite of new sensors that form the starting point of new geo-services 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.

Thirteen services out of about forty services proposed have been developed and are on the market.These were done through co-design and co-creation processes with local stakeholders. Tthree examples are given here: 1. cost efficient rain gauges that do not have moving parts are combined with satellite observations and hydraulic models to provide early warnings for rapid flooding of urban areas. 2. the use of citizen observations of crop status using the VegMon app in combination with a crop model and UAV maps to provide irrigation and phytosanitary advice to farmers. 3. consumer-grade GPS receivers and satellite radar images determine atmospheric moisture field, to improve the ability of national meteorological agencies to predict heavy convective rainstorms.
Starting activity was the analysis of user needs. Over 40 interviews were held with potential users in the water, agriculture, energy, insurance, and flood resilience sectors. Based on the analysis, 38 services were identified with six that were prioritized for operationalization. These six services: Map your crop, your local and timely weather forecast, digital platform for index insurance, short-term prediction for solar energy, Water balance for (dam) reservoirs and heat stress indices, were selected based on their potential impact and the feasibility of rapid implementation. Additional seven services (How humid is my environment, Soil Index Crop Insurance, Does it drain, International Water Control Room, Emergency Management for heavy rains, Drought Monitoring and GNSS for floodplains and Atmospheric Moisture) have been brought to the market.

Field-testing of several experimental sensors started, with a lot of progress made, some of which have produced useful results and exploited for the current services on the market. The UAVs continue to provide very relevant new information for crop status and flood monitoring. Several citizen science apps and services have been developed and field-tested for measuring crop stages and drainage issues and operational. Data is now flowing from these sensors into the TWIGA platform, from which the services have been developed,operationalized and on the market. The data flow to GEOSS is continuously maintained. Soil moisture data from the TAHMO network is readily available in the International Soil Moisture Network to the public.

New sensors, are 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 evaporimeter, neutron counter, intervalometer/disdrometer, GNSS water vapour measurement and the flood mapper. Also for new sensors, such as the floating plastic sensor, proof-of-concept has been built to continuously feed the innovation pipeline from sensor to service. Due to prioritisation of needs from users for the various services, the plastic sensor has not been developed further. Involving affected citizens with an ODK App on a smart phone turned out to be a more efficient way to report plastic accumulation.

A lot of effort was put in the TWIGA data platform with feature enhancement done both on the backend and front end following some recommendations from the TWIGA project officer and reviewers. A set of micro-services has been developed that link data sources to the platform. Service delivery through the platform is operational. Data and metadata formats have been implemented that support GEOSS. New sensors and citizen science data, demand special quality control and calibration for which a framework has been put in place and being implemented even beyond the project phase.
Our inventory of potential services and co-design with potential stakeholders has helped to streamline the early activities within TWIGA, thereby accelerating the development of the first thirteen services. The interactions with farmers, especially in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, has helped us to fine-tune the services thereby increasing the potential impact by addressing real needs on the ground as well as willingness to pay for the services which enhances sustainability
TWIGA used different communication channels ideas D7.1 tools D7.4 and co-creative product development D7.2 to formulate a compelling customer value proposition to develop and deliver the thirteen services to users. Due to different educational levels, reading, listening and viewing habits of the TWIGA target groups in Africa and the rest of the world, different but complementary communication or transmission channels and marketing vehicles were used aside the TWIGA portal to ensure a wider reach of the TWIGA results including the products and services while paying particular attention to gender equality. The marketing vehicles ensured that youth, women, children and the poor, especially in local communities, were able to understand and therefore potentially benefit from the products and services.

The TWIGA portal and contribution of TWIGA data to GEOSS (https://www.geoportal.org) removes some of the bottlenecks in exploiting in situ data for the development of geo-services, especially the calibration and validation of satellite based services. This enhances the exploitation of the TWIGA results. Again, the African network and partnerships established by the TWIGA project is available for exploitation by the project partners and others who are interested in following up on the services developed within the project. A typical example is shown by the intended use of the TWIGA portal by the new Horizon Europe project led by the Delft University of technology. The documented successes and modular business models on the TWIGA legacy website makes it possible for the local embedding of additional services to the existing TWIGA services without the need to start new partnerships from scratch. This is helpful for new EU projects as well as companies in Europe who want to exploit the different types of services set up for the different markets. It saves them time and resources and reduces the risk of failure of their businesses.
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