By Joy Crane
East Africa’s forestry value chain is modernising. The launching of the Geospatial Forestry Platform (GFP) opens the door to precision silviculture and harvesting practices that could transform the entire value chain.
Over 100 tree growers, forest products manufacturers, NGOs and government officials from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania gathered in Nairobi in November to see how state-of-the-art technologies and data can change the resources sector.
Gatsby Africa, Swift Geospatial, the Forestry Development Trust and ESRI South Africa hosted the event. They showcased the results of two years of design and development to create a GIS (geographic information system) based management tool for East Africa.
GIS connects data to a map, integrating location data with all types of descriptive information. This provides a foundation for mapping and analysis that is used in science and almost every industry. GIS helps users understand patterns, relationships, and geographic context. The benefits include improved communication, efficiencies, management and decision making.
Through its commercial forestry programmes in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, Gatsby Africa identified the lack of data as a critical management constraint across the value chain.
Established six years ago in South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria, Swift Geospatial uses Sentinel Viewer to access images captured by the multi-spectral cameras aboard the Sentinel-2 and Planet satellites. Sentinel Viewer provides 10 metre resolution imagery in 13 bands of the colour spectrum, making it ideal for identifying and mapping tree species, soil and water.
Gatsby Africa is a private foundation established by the UK’s Lord David Sainsbury to accelerate competitive, inclusive, and resilient economic growth in East Africa. It works with sectors across six portfolios, including commercial forestry, to create inclusive opportunities and jobs, improve incomes and reduce poverty.
In his opening address, Dr Sam Kareithi, Gatsby Africa’s country director enthusiastically presented the potential of the farm and commercial forestry industries in the region. The Swift Geospatial and Gatsby Africa partnership provides tree growers with data and analysis to manage their resources and increase efficiencies and production.
The platform makes essential information available to tree growers. It supports decision-making by linking species choice to the forestry site, monitoring, climate scenarios, and market objectives. It can underpin a competitive, inclusive and resilient commercial forestry sector.
Award-winning writer, analyst and global technology commentator Arthur Goldstuck was the keynote speaker. He described how modern hardware and software technologies drive economic and sectoral growth.
Goldstuck heads World Wide Worx, a market research company providing information on the impact of technological change on business and society. He congratulated Swift Geospatial on its dedication in providing solutions that boost decision making.
Swift Geospatial’s Nyasha Mureriwa and Lauren Pijper demonstrated the GFP. It is a collection of monitoring modules accessible through easy-to-navigate GIS dashboards. Free online modules introduce geospatial tools that are ideal for small woodlot owners. For larger growers, there are more in-depth paid-for modules.
Forestry companies need to know the stems per hectare in each compartment. The GFP lets you track the number of planted trees in all young compartments until canopy closure. It detects die-offs between counts, and imagery is available as historical or current imagery.
The platform is designed for use throughout the lifecycle of a plantation, from planning to harvesting.
Jay Clark of Fort Hartley Brand Consultants described how the Gatsby Africa and Swift Geospatial are working to educate the public about the platform and the advantages of remote sensing and monitoring in the context of climate change.
The highly interactive panel discussion moderated by Lu Wigman, Gatsby Africa’s communication manager presented an integrated perspective of forest management and its downstream impact. Michael Breetzke, founder and director of Swift Geospatial was on the panel.
“The ability to provide forestry decision-makers with a larger, more concise data set of relevant information will benefit the entire forestry value chain,” Breetzke said.
Jack Steege of Gatsby Africa brought the event to a close by officially launching the Geospatial Forestry Platform into the global market as a forestry monitoring software solution.
The audience left the launch convinced that digital technologies have a key role to play in developing a sustainable forestry and wood products sector in East Africa.
Source: WoodBiz Africa Magazine