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Land cover and land use in T&T intervention

Land cover is the observed (bio)physical cover on the earth's surface. It describes vegetation and man-made features. Bare rock, bare soil and water surfaces, although referring to land itself rather than its cover, are usually described by the scientific community under the term land cover. Land use is characterized by the arrangements, activities and inputs people undertake in a certain land cover type to produce, change or maintain it. Land use establishes a direct link between land cover and the actions of people in their environment.

Land cover and land use datasets are extremely useful for several aspects of tsetse and Trypanosomosis intervention. They have been utilized mainly in the fields of tsetse habitat mapping and in the environmental and economic impact assessment of control strategies. The recent strong emphasis on the area-wide integrated pest management approach should increase the demand of land cover information within the projects dealing with the T&T problem. Updated and accurate land cover maps should also be used more widely as reference base for land planning. Accurate planning, at both broad and village or farm level, is an essential tool to ensure that the reclaimed areas are exploited in a sustainable, equitable and economical fashion.

Available datasets

Mapping by means of field surveys is the traditional technique for land cover studies, but Remote Sensing (RS), either from aircrafts or satellites, has long become the most common tool for this kind of exercise.

Several worldwide land cover datasets are available for analysis at regional and global scale. The best spatial resolution of such datasets is presently around 1km. GlobalLandCover2000 produced by the Joint Research Centre of the European Union is one of the most relevant items and provides both worldwide and regional datasets, including the product over Africa. To a similar resolution is also available MODIS Land Cover, by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which utilizes the MODIS sensor on-board the Terra satellite operated by NASA. The most promising upgrade and update in the domain of global land cover products is GLOBCOVER, a European Space Agency initiative in collaboration with several organization among which FAO and UNEP. The objective of GLOBCOVER is to produce a global land-cover map for the year 2005, using as main source of data the 300 m resolution MERIS sensor on-board ENVISAT satellite. In the context of Trypanosomosis control, the available and upcoming global datasets can be useful in supporting the decision makers in the identification of priority areas for intervention. They could also contribute to the depiction of more accurate distribution and abundance maps of the numerous tsetse species on a regional and African scale.

The planning and deployment of tsetse and Trypanosomosis control strategies often requires land cover and land use maps with a higher spatial detail and greater geometric accuracy. Africover (FAO) is the most relevant project aimed at creation of a multipurpose databases on environmental resources for African countries. The major output of the project is the production of land cover maps on a scale of 1:200.000 and 1:100.000 for large or small countries respectively. The maps are derived from 30 meters resolution Landsat TM satellite images and are presently available for 10 countries, among which are eight out of the 37 tsetse infested sub-Saharan countries: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Other Africover modules for Magreb, Sahel, Southern Africa have been formulated and are under discussion with donors.

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Land Cover Classification System (LCCS)

A critical factor in the production of reliable and comparable land cover data is the availability of a common, harmonized land cover classification system that provides a reliable basis for interaction among the increasing number of national, regional and global land cover mapping and monitoring activities. In the absence of a generally accepted or applicable system, FAO and UNEP have developed the Land Cover Classification System (LCCS), which enables comparison of land cover classes regardless of mapping scale, land cover type, data collection method or geographic location. Currently, LCCS is the only universally applicable classification system in operational use. LCCS' inherent flexibility, its applicability in all climatic zones and environmental conditions, and the built-in compatibility with other classification systems has given LCCS the potential to be accepted as the international standard. For these reasons, LCCS is currently in the approval process to become a standard of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The application of LCCS within the T&T-related land cover mapping exercises would have multiple beneficial outcomes. It would permit the comparison and integrated analysis of otherwise incompatible databases; it would contribute to the harmonization of national programmes at regional level. It would also enormously enlarge the potential users’ community, well beyond the T&T specialists. This is particularly relevant in situations where baseline data collection is often neglected and available funds extremely limited.

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