Prof. Wakhungu said that the decline is as a result of the adoption of the use of open source land mapping tools that enable better use of freely available satellite information for natural habitat conservation assessment.
“Kenya Wildlife Services are now capable of getting a snapshot of satellite images of the protected areas on a single page,” Professor Wakhungu says while opening the first international forum on Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) that is being attended by delegates from 48 countries.
She says that Kenya has faced an increase in poaching and deforestation but the collaboration with the development partners, MESA and Intergovernmental Agency for Development IGAD), has helped reduced poaching activity in the country.
“Before the use of the digital technology, government officials and security agencies had to travel physically to protected areas hence taking several days and incurring huge costs,” she notes.
She observes that the funds saved from conducting manual surveillance are now channeled by Government to further research and innovation towards safeguarding our environment.
Prof. Wakhungu noted that MESA products and services are capable of helping curb widespread illegal, unregulated and unreported activities adding that the dedication of scientists to using earth observation data through the MESA project has not only supported policy but allowed governments through various arms to make decisions that impact on the lives of the citizens.
The Secretary General of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) Jean-Claude de I Estrac challenges African countries to train more personnel to be able to man the technical equipments that are being installed in the continent to help in observing the earth.
He says that regional organizations in Africa are emerging as centers of excellence and therefore requires trained personnel.
“The governments must retain staffs by ensuring that they are well paid to avoid the exodus to other continents adding that many facilities in the continent are underutilized due to lack of technical staff,” he notes.
He calls on governments to integrate MESA policies into their national governments policies to help in informing.
“Africa is vulnerable to climate change and requires African own policies and strategies to help uplift the economies to cater for the growing population,” the head of cooperation at the European Union delegation to the African Union Anna Burylo says.
She says that there is need to provide relevant information to public and private organizations in fishing, agriculture and also wildlife conservation.
Burylo reveals that the EU is funding MESA program at a cost of 37 million Euros because the program is vital for Africa’s strategy on weather, climate change and disaster risk management.
She says that the program is helping protect populations and the environment against natural threats like flooding, drought and fire as well as manmade hazards like depletion of fish stock and land degradation.
MESA project is to support African decision-makers and planers in designing and implementing national, regional and continental policies and development plans towards sustainable development, thereby advancing the socio-economic progress and well-being of African populations.
It is intended to provide information in user friendly form to improve usage by decision makers in Africa for better management of the environment, attainment of food security at all levels.
It is emphasizing mainly on agriculture, environment, climate change, fisheries and food security in bringing about long term social and economic impact in the continent.
The Project is implemented by the African Regions through their specialized technical institutions including the Botswana Department of Meteorological Services and SADC Climate Services Centre for the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the Inter- Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the International Commission.