Posted December 1997
Reported by Carlo Travaglia, Remote Sensing Officer, FAO Environment and Natural Resources Service (SDRN)
To coordinate activities and lecture at the ESCAP/FAO/ESA sub-regional workshop for decision-makers on remote sensing/GIS applications.
Workshops for decision-makers on remote sensing/GIS applications were initiated by FAO in 1990 and held at national and regional level. These activities were mostly organized in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency) and with other partners in the Near East, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Africa Regions. In February 1996, ESCAP and ESA were contacted in view of starting this kind of activities in Asia as well. On the basis of their positive answers, a regional ESCAP/FAO/ESA workshop was planned for 1997. ESCAP later proposed to organize the workshop in Baku, Azerbaijan, as a first joint activity in Central Asia, where, as a consequence of the transition process, remote sensing and GIS applications could play a much needed and essential role. A planning meeting was thus held at ESCAP, Bangkok, in February 1997.
3.1 The sub-regional "ESCAP/FAO/ESA Decision-Makers Seminar on Space Information Technology Applications for Sustainable Agriculture Management", was held in Baku, Azerbaijan, in the period 13-17 October 1997. Objectives of the seminar were:
Cooperation, both financial and technical, with the other sponsors made the implementation of the workshop possible. As a technical input, ESCAP and ESA provided a lecturer each. Further, FAO and ESA, through the common budget established to cover costs associated with the preparation and implementation of the workshop, invited five lecturers from India, Poland, Romania and Russia to present specific case studies and experiences. The Azerbaijan National Aerospace Agency (ANASA), the local cooperating agency, provided all local logistic support, including transportation for a field excursion.
SDRN prepared the workshop programme, selected the lecturers, coordinated all technical inputs, as well as the administrative aspects, and provided the workshop coordinator.
3.2 Twenty-two participants from nine countries attended the workshop for its full duration. Participants were mostly at the level of Director/Deputy Director (the participant from Tajikistan was the Deputy Minister of Agriculture) from Planning, Irrigation, Land Management, Agriculture and Water Resources Departments from Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Many other Directors/technical staff from Azerbaijan government institutions attended the sessions of their interest. Lecturers, as indicated, were from ESCAP, FAO, ESA,India, Poland, Romania and Russia.
3.3 The workshop was organized in sessions, covering introduction, remote sensing and geographical information systems, case studies and applications (land degradation, soils mapping, land cover/landuse mapping, crops inventory and yield estimates, forest inventory and monitoring, water resources, etc.) and inter-country cooperation. Discussions concluded each session.
A field excursion was carried out north of Baku to show exact correlation between different types of satellite imagery (Landsat Thematic Mapper, ERS-SAR, and very high resolution space photographs) and a variety of land features.
During the last day of the workshop, the participants, subdivided into two working groups, prepared a set of recommendations, later presented and discussed in a general session. These will be submitted, together with a full report on the activity, by ESCAP, in the name of the three sponsors, to the Governments of the sub-region.
4.1 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.
Small pilot project to test and adequately transfer these technologies in the countries in transition were recommended by the participants, who identified and ranked the priority applications.
In order to favour the exchange of experiences and increase awareness in the field of remote sensing /GIS, the participants also recommended the yearly holding of workshops on remote sensing/GIS applications in the sub-region on a country rotation basis, following the pattern already implemented by FAO/ESA in Central-Eastern Europe.
4.2 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. As remote sensing is in many cases the operative answer to this, it is recommended that a remote sensing component be included in any project involving inventory or management of natural resources, such as land cover/landuse prior to land redistribution, forest and water resources, etc.
Further, as requests for the above will be forthcoming, it is necessary to identify funds to assist these countries in the relevant project formulation exercise and in the implementation of pilot projects providing the necessary technology transfer and on-the-job training.