Maghreb and West African countries prepared to apply SWOS products and services

Tour du Valat, EMWIS and Wetlands International jointly organised a 3 days training session in Rabat Morocco from 22 to 24 May 2017. The purpose was to train French speaking users coming mainly from Maghreb and West African countries in how to use earth observation data for wetland and water monitoring, based on the products developed by SWOS project. 14 users from 5 countries Algeria, Mali, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia took part in the training. They were representing the General Directorates for forest from Algeria and Tunisia, the Tunisian NGO for nature conservation ATPNE-Korba (Association Tunisienne pour la Protection de la Nature et de l’Environnement de Korba), the river basin organisations of Oued Sebou (Morocco) and Algerois (Algeria), Wetlands International regional offices from Mali and Senegal, the Scientific Association For Water Information System (SAWIS), the Regional Africa Center on Space science and technologies (CRASTE-LF) and Senegal River Basin Organisation (OMVS).

Based on the overview of the SWOS project, service (including the new geoportal) and products (maps and indicators) provided during the 1st session, trainees defined their own service cases responding to local, national or supra-national needs.

Satellite data acquisition was introduced, but to save time, Sentinel-2 and Landsat-8 images had  already been prepared and were provided to all users for testing of the SWOS approaches and products on pre-selected areas within some test sites related to their service cases: Sebou river basin (Morocco), Sebaou river basin (Algeria), Medjerda transboundary river basin (Algeria/Tunisia), Senegal river basin and Inner Niger Delta (Mali).

The current version of the SWOS mapping software (the GEOclassifier) was used. Participants were able to apply what they learnt and to produce their 1st Land Use Land Cover and Surface Water Dynamics maps; using some of the SWOS nomenclature systems (e.g. CLC/Ramsar) and satellite data related to their sites.

During the discussion, valuable inputs where collected from users on the SWOS service geoportal (e.g. providing links to download hubs for the different EO data identified for each site; provision of web-services for remote integration into other portals or desktop applications) to be soon publically released as well as many suggestions for the improvement of the GEOclassifier software (e.g. the possibility of using vector files, the calculation of the classification confusion matrix for error assessment and the possibility to analyse DEM data using the GEOclassifier). Additionally, participants showed a very high interest in the SWOS approach used for the delineation of potential wetland areas (based on combining spectral, topographic and climatic indices), especially to help them in the development of wetland inventories at local (river basin) or national scales.

Finally, potential collaboration with local users to gather field data for map validation was also discussed with a strong willingness of some users to be involved in this process to increase the quality and reliability of final results. Such involvement will be formalised when the SWOS validation guidelines are been finalised.

As follow ups to the training, EMWIS, Tour du Valat and Wetlands International will regularly communicate with the users to support the production and validation of valuable maps and indicators as well as preparing related application case studies. Trainees were suggested to register to SWOS newsletter to be kept informed about any news related to the SWOS activities, and services (portal, GEOclassifier, capacity building opportunities, mapping products).

Training session in Rabat Morocco from 22 to 24 May 2017