Participants with the Chief Guest and Facilitators of the CommonSensing workshop from UNITAR.
A week long CommonSensing Workshop held at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Emalus Campus in Port Vila, Vanuatu from 11-15th November, 2019 is one of the many events organised by the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) as part of the ongoing collaboration between the CommonSensing project and USP.
CommonSensing is an innovative international project funded by the UK Space Agency (UKSA) through the International Partnership Programme (IPP) based on a partnership between Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu; and a consortium of international partners led by UNITAR-UNOSAT, working together to support and build climate resilience and enhance decision making through the use of satellite remote sensing technology.
Participants were mostly staff of key Government line ministries and FSTE students and staff.
Guest Speaker Her Excellency Karen Bell, the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom to Vanuatu officially opened the workshop and congratulated the students for their commitment in attending soon after the completion of exams.
She noted that, “It is encouraging to see you here at the workshop just after the exams. It is an important commitment you have shown. You could have been at home sleeping after the exams”.
“This is a very important component of a 10 million pound project which is being funded by the UK, through the UK Space Agency International Space Partnerships Programme and we are already thrilled to have so many excellent partners.
“This project has been designed to enable our partner governments here in Vanuatu, in Solomon Islands and in Fiji, to have access to the data they need in order to support national development objectives, in the fields of disaster management, food security, climate information, and very importantly, climate finance,” she remarked.
After the scoping programme last year, the team is now in Phase 2 of the project, with the focus on delivery. Mrs Bell confirmed that the local partners on this project in the country include the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Climate Change, Ministry of Land and the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO).
The High Commissioner stated that in today’s fast moving world, there is probably no commodity more valuable than data. She said, “When we have access to high quality data we are able to understand what’s happening in the world - whether it’s physical changes to our actual environment or perhaps it is the political developments or the news happening in the region, or elsewhere in the world.
“And much close to home, of course, data is really essential to stay in touch with our friends and families. I have never been in a place where people are more committed to Facebook than they are here in Vanuatu. And that’s all about data, of course”.
High Commissioner Bell stressed that where there is good access to` quality data, leaders can also make informed choices and decisions. With information, governments are able to make informed decisions on how they spend their money, where to reach people, and determine how to deliver most effectively. It can help them make good quality long-term plans”, she said.
Mr Abraham Nasak, Director of the Disaster Management Office (NDMO) emphasised what the Vanuatu Government had already highlighted…..“that our priority, when it comes to disaster response, is everyone’s business and not just the disaster response, but disaster preparedness and disaster recovery plan as well”.
Mr Luca Dell’Oro, Senior Specialist from UNITAR-UNOSAT acknowledged H.E Bell and all distinguished invited guests for the very encouraging and inspiring words shared as opening remarks. He also thanked Dr Krishna Kotra, FSTE’s Science Programme Coordinator for the support and training provided to organise the event.
He also officially handed over, on behalf of CS project director, to the Vanuatu Government a hard drive that contains national wide coverage of cloud free VHR images. The donation was made possible thanks to the generosity of the US Department of States.
Mr Dell’Oro also thanked the US Department of State for the donation, which is quite an extraordinary dataset that allows for experts to compare satellite images acquired as far back as 20 years with more recent images acquired over the past months.
He added that, “I am confident that CommonSensing Project, through capacity developed activities currently being implemented will enhance technical capacities of line ministries and will provide all required technical support to take most of the new developments of Earth Observation technology”.
Mr Kalo Obed, a USP student, majoring in Mathematics and Information Science said, “What motivates me to attend this training is the use of GIS machine to collect information from difficult to access areas in Vanuatu. I am concerned about the effects of climate change which is why I want to follow this path in my studies”.
Another student Ms Trisha Kalkaua said she attended the workshop because she believed it would assist her in her studies.
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