Geoinformation, monitoring and assessment Environment

Posted December 1997

Assenovgrad, Bulgaria
10-14 November 1997

FAO/ESA workshop for decision-makers on remote sensing/GIS applications


Reported by Carlo Travaglia, Remote Sensing Officer, FAO Environment and Natural Resources Service (SDRN)


1. Purpose

To coordinate activities and lecture at the FAO/ESA workshop for decision-makers on remote sensing/GIS applications.

2. Background

FAO in close cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) and other bodies has been organizing since 1991 workshops for decision-makers on remote sensing/GIS applications to agricultural and environmental management for the benefit of Central-Eastern European countries. Workshops were organized in Hungary (1991), Slovak Republic (1992), Poland (1995) and Romania (1996). In June 1996, the Bulgarian Aerospace Agency (BASA), the government agency responsible for remote sensing/GIS applications, officially requested FAO and ESA to hold the next workshop in Bulgaria.

The request was positively considered by both organizations and the workshop was organized in all its aspects by SDRN.

3. Activities

3.1 In view of the particular situation of Bulgaria in the field of remote sensing/GIS applications, and to favour a better dissemination of the relevant information in the country, FAO and ESA agreed to organize a workshop mainly for national participants but including some decision-makers from neighbouring countries. Lecturers were chiefly from Central-Eastern European countries in order to expose the maximum number of local participants to remote sensing/GIS applications and to encourage technology transfer in the sub-region.

3.2 The "FAO/ESA in cooperation with BASA Workshop for Decision-Makers on Remote Sensing/GIS Applications to Agricultural and Environmental Management" was held in the St. Kyrick complex near Assenovgrad in the period 10-14 November 1997. FAO and ESA contributed funds to a common budget to cover costs associated with the preparation and implementation of the workshop. As a technical input, ESA provided a lecturer.

To enhance regional cooperation and exchange of experiences, four lecturers from the sub-region were involved in the programme and invited to present specific case studies.

The Bulgarian Aerospace Agency (BASA), the local cooperating agency, provided technical inputs and acted as local Secretariat during the preparation and implementation phases.

SDRN prepared the workshop programme, selected the lecturers and the participants, coordinated all technical inputs as well as the administrative aspects, and provided the workshop coordinator.

3.3 Twenty-five participants attended the workshop for its full duration. Participants were mostly Directors/Deputy Directors of Agriculture, Forestry, Agrarian Reform, Land Reclamation, Environmental Protection, Rural Service, Soils, Irrigation and Drainage Departments or Professor/Assistant Professor of technical universities. They were from Armenia (1), Bulgaria (19),Moldova (1), Romania (3) and Turkey (1). Lecturers were from FAO, ESA, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania.

Of particular interest the attendance for the whole first day of Dr. T. Kavaljiev, Vice President of the Republic of Bulgaria, who opened the workshop and remained until the evening. Further, the introductory lecture ("Information required in the decision-making process") was presented by Dr. I. Philipov, the former Minister of Environment of Bulgaria.

3.4 The workshop was organized in sessions covering remote sensing/GIS; inventory/monitoring/management of natural resources (land cover/landuse, soils inventory, land degradation, forest inventory, pasture/grassland inventory, water resources, environmental hazards, etc.); regional projects in Bulgaria; data requirements and regional cooperation. Interesting discussions concluded each session. A field excursion was carried out in the Assenovgrad-Plovdiv plain to show exact correlation between different types of satellite imagery (Landsat Thematic Mapper, ERS-SAR) and a variety of land features. Notwithstanding the inclement weather, the excursion was fully completed; participants showed very high interest and, thanks to their background, a good understanding of the potential uses of the technology.

During the last day of the workshop, the participants, sub-divided into two working groups, prepared a set of recommendations, later presented and discussed in a general session.

4. Comments/recommendations

4.1 Thanks to the series of workshops for decision-makers already implemented in the sub-region, it has been possible to identify several experts covering a large spectrum of remote sensing/GIS applications. The various activities undertaken together allowed for the formation of a group able to work as a team also in difficult situations. As they come from countries of the sub-region having experienced similar transition processes, they are the most suitable candidates for technology transfer in pilot projects to be implemented in the area. Further, all of them speak also Russian, essential language in many of the countries.

4.2 During the workshop, participants were exposed to recent, operative remote sensing/GIS applications in the field of agriculture and evaluated the feasibility of using these modern technologies in the implementation of their institutional tasks. Participants showed great interest, as remote sensing/GIS offer to them a rapid, accurate and comparatively low cost way of producing and/or updating assessment maps of various type and of managing databases for subsequent planning. The countries in transition of the sub-region, in their process of planning for a new economy, are in need of updated, reliable baseline data as a prerequisite to sound planning. Remote sensing is in many cases the operative answer to this need. It was recommended that a remote sensing component be included in any project involving inventory, monitoring or management of natural resources.

4.3 As a consequence of the interest generated by this series of workshops for decision-makers (see report of workshop in Baku, Azerbaijan in October 1997), several requests for assistance were received. At the request of UNDP Armenia, a remote sensing component was proposed for a forestry management project, to be funded by UNDP; two requests for project formulation were received from Azerbaijan; a TCP project (Strengthening capacity in agricultural development through remote sensing and GIS) has been formulated, at the request of BASA, from Bulgaria, officially endorsed by the Government and transmitted to FAO; finally a TSS2 has been raised by UNDP Bulgaria to FAO for assistance/supervision of an agricultural statistics project. Further requests are expected from Moldova and from other countries of the sub-region.

4.4 The workshop has been an unique opportunity for many potential remote sensing actors and users of Bulgaria to discuss the establishment of an operative remote sensing applications centre in the country, putting together resources (suitable but unused equipment exists in the country) and staff. In this sense the workshop has played a catalytic role.



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