1
Introduction

In 1992, world leaders adopted Agenda 21 (UNCED, 1992), the work program of the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. The land-mark event provided a political foundation and action items (Table 1-1) to facilitate the global transition toward sustainable development (Box 1-1). The international community is marking the tenth anniversary of this conference by holding the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2002. The main goals of the summit are to “reinvigorate the global commitments to, and achieve a higher level of international solidarity and partnership in the promotion of sustainable development (UN, 2001).” The summit builds on the political momentum created by the U.N. Millennium Declaration, in which world leaders committed themselves to achieving a broad range of time-bound international sustainable development objectives for which sustainable development provides a unifying framework (UN, 2001).

This report is a component of the U.S. State Department’s contribution to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the “Geographic Information for Sustainable Development” project (GISD, 2002). Because South Africa is hosting the summit, it seemed appropriate for this report to focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Examples are drawn from case-study regions where the U.S. Agency for International Development and other agencies have broad experience. Although African countries are the geographic focus of the report (Figure 1-1), the material in the report has broader applicability. This chapter describes the purpose of the report, presents the committee’s charge, provides background on major themes, and outlines the organizational structure.

PURPOSE OF THIS REPORT

This report summarizes the importance and applicability of geographic1 data for sustainable development. Geographic data describe spatial variations across the landscape at a variety of scales (local, national, global) and include such elements as climate, elevation, soil, vegetation, population, land use, and economic activity. The report draws on experiences in African countries and examines how future sources and applications of geographic data could provide reliable support to decision-makers2 as they work towards sustainable development. The committee emphasizes the potential of new technologies, such as satellite remote-sensing systems3 and geographic information systems (GIS), that have revolutionized data collection and analysis, over the last decade.

The Charge to the Committee

As a component of the State Department’s contribution to the World Summit in Johannesburg (August 2002), this study will examine the geographic foundation for natural resource management and development issues in Africa. Centered on a place-based,4 integrative framework, the study draws on experiences of U.S. government agencies, international

1  

Geography is an integrative discipline that brings together the physical and human dimensions of the world in the study of people, places, and environments. Its subject matter is the Earth’s surface and the processes that shape it, the relationships between people and environments, and the connections between people and places (Geography Education Standards Project, 1994).

2  

Decision-makers in the context of sustainable development choose actions that directly or indirectly affect the environment and reside in all levels of government, the citizenry, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, or overseas development agencies, for example.

3  

Remote-sensing is “the measurement or acquisition of information of some property of an object or phenomenon by a recording device that is not in physical or intimate contact with the object or phenomenon under study” (Colwell, 1997). Satellites and aircraft are common platforms for remote-sensing systems.

4  

Place-based studies are “the systematic analysis of social, economic, political, and environmental processes operating in a place that provides an integrated understanding of its distinctiveness or character” (NRC, 1999).



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Down to Earth: Geographic Information for Sustainable Development in Africa 1 Introduction In 1992, world leaders adopted Agenda 21 (UNCED, 1992), the work program of the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. The land-mark event provided a political foundation and action items (Table 1-1) to facilitate the global transition toward sustainable development (Box 1-1). The international community is marking the tenth anniversary of this conference by holding the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2002. The main goals of the summit are to “reinvigorate the global commitments to, and achieve a higher level of international solidarity and partnership in the promotion of sustainable development (UN, 2001).” The summit builds on the political momentum created by the U.N. Millennium Declaration, in which world leaders committed themselves to achieving a broad range of time-bound international sustainable development objectives for which sustainable development provides a unifying framework (UN, 2001). This report is a component of the U.S. State Department’s contribution to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the “Geographic Information for Sustainable Development” project (GISD, 2002). Because South Africa is hosting the summit, it seemed appropriate for this report to focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Examples are drawn from case-study regions where the U.S. Agency for International Development and other agencies have broad experience. Although African countries are the geographic focus of the report (Figure 1-1), the material in the report has broader applicability. This chapter describes the purpose of the report, presents the committee’s charge, provides background on major themes, and outlines the organizational structure. PURPOSE OF THIS REPORT This report summarizes the importance and applicability of geographic1 data for sustainable development. Geographic data describe spatial variations across the landscape at a variety of scales (local, national, global) and include such elements as climate, elevation, soil, vegetation, population, land use, and economic activity. The report draws on experiences in African countries and examines how future sources and applications of geographic data could provide reliable support to decision-makers2 as they work towards sustainable development. The committee emphasizes the potential of new technologies, such as satellite remote-sensing systems3 and geographic information systems (GIS), that have revolutionized data collection and analysis, over the last decade. The Charge to the Committee As a component of the State Department’s contribution to the World Summit in Johannesburg (August 2002), this study will examine the geographic foundation for natural resource management and development issues in Africa. Centered on a place-based,4 integrative framework, the study draws on experiences of U.S. government agencies, international 1   Geography is an integrative discipline that brings together the physical and human dimensions of the world in the study of people, places, and environments. Its subject matter is the Earth’s surface and the processes that shape it, the relationships between people and environments, and the connections between people and places (Geography Education Standards Project, 1994). 2   Decision-makers in the context of sustainable development choose actions that directly or indirectly affect the environment and reside in all levels of government, the citizenry, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, or overseas development agencies, for example. 3   Remote-sensing is “the measurement or acquisition of information of some property of an object or phenomenon by a recording device that is not in physical or intimate contact with the object or phenomenon under study” (Colwell, 1997). Satellites and aircraft are common platforms for remote-sensing systems. 4   Place-based studies are “the systematic analysis of social, economic, political, and environmental processes operating in a place that provides an integrated understanding of its distinctiveness or character” (NRC, 1999).

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Down to Earth: Geographic Information for Sustainable Development in Africa TABLE 1-1 Action Items from Agenda 21a SECTION I. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DIMENSIONS 2. International cooperation to accelerate sustainable development in developing countries and related domestic policies 3. Combating poverty 4. Changing consumption patterns 5. Demographic dynamics and sustainability 6. Protecting and promoting human health conditions 7. Promoting sustainable human settlement development 8. Integrating environment and development in decision-making SECTION II. CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT OF RESOURCES FOR DEVELOPMENT 9. Protection of the atmosphere 10. Integrated approach to the planning and management of land resources 11. Combating deforestation 12. Managing fragile ecosystems: combating desertification and drought 13. Managing fragile ecosystems: sustainable mountain development 14. Promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development 15. Conservation of biological diversity 16. Environmentally sound management of biotechnology 17. Protection of the oceans, all kinds of seas, including enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, and coastal areas and the protection, rational use and development of their living resources 18. Protection of the quality and supply of freshwater resources: application of integrated approaches to the development, management and use of water resources 19. Environmentally sound management of toxic chemicals, including prevention of illegal international traffic in toxic and dangerous products 20. Environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes 21. Environmentally sound management of solid wastes and sewage-related issues 22. Safe and environmentally sound management of radioactive wastes SECTION III. STRENGTHENING THE ROLE OF MAJOR GROUPS 24. Global action for women toward sustainable and equitable development 25. Children and youth in sustainable development 26. Recognizing and strengthening the role of indigenous people and their communities 27. Strengthening the role of non-governmental organizations: partners for sustainable development 28. Local authorities’ initiatives in support of Agenda 21 29. Strengthening the role of workers and their trade unions 30. Strengthening the role of business and industry 31. Scientific and technological community 32. Strengthening the role of farmers SECTION IV. MEANS OF IMPLEMENTATION 33. Financial resources and mechanisms 34. Transfer of environmentally sound technology, cooperation and capacity building 35. Science for sustainable development 36. Promoting education, public awareness and training 37. National mechanisms and international cooperation for capacity building in developing countries 38. International institutional arrangements 39. International legal instruments and mechanisms 40. Information for decision-making aThe numbers indicate the chapter of Agenda 21 that relates to each action item. Chapters 1 and 23 are preambles, and therefore are not included in this table. SOURCE: UNCED (1992).

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Down to Earth: Geographic Information for Sustainable Development in Africa BOX 1-1 Sustainable Development: A Matter of Definition The concept of “sustainable development” has a long history in scientific thought. As early as 1749 the Swedish botanist Linnaeus in his Oeconomia naturae, linked economy to nature in a way that resembles many of the concepts of sustainable development. His economic program focused on the need to make efficient use of existing resources rather than pursue military expeditions as a means of economic survival. Over 200 years later, in Our Common Future, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED, 1987) gave international prominence to sustainable development and defined it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Our Common Journey, a report of the U.S. National Research Council (NRC, 1999), added a temporal dimension, defining sustainable development as “the reconciliation of society’s developmental goals with its environmental limits over the long term.” These definitions reflect the growing need to provide an ethical framework for integrating developmental and environmental goals. Sustainable development is therefore a set of guiding principles whose implementation is reflected in a variety of action programs, of which Agenda 21 is the most prominent. FIGURE 1-1 Countries of Africa. Courtesy D. Zimble, ESRI.

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Down to Earth: Geographic Information for Sustainable Development in Africa groups, decision-makers, and experts to examine (1) existing remote-sensing and GIS efforts in case-study regions, and lessons learned from those efforts; (2) existing levels of local expertise and technology, and ongoing efforts in geospatial capacity building5; (3) a range of questions relating to the practical application of new and existing spatial data (e.g., required resolution, challenges of integrating layers of environmental and social data, and baseline data against which future change can be measured); (4) the role of decision-support systems in the application of these data; and (5) options for making efforts sustainable beyond 2002. The geographic foundation for Agenda 21 in Africa involves a wide array of geographic data, tools, and perspectives (including social, environmental, and economic data; maps and models; and the analysis of pattern and processes, place and scale). This study was undertaken in support of the U.S. Geographic Information for Sustainable Development alliance that focuses on the uses of earth observation data and GIS to address Agenda 21 issues. In this context the report emphasizes fundamental data types that are needed in many applications and ways of increasing accessibility to these data in Africa. An assessment of the potential applications of the full range of geographic data, tools, and concepts for natural resource management and development in Africa would also be valuable. GEOGRAPHIC DATA AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT Chapter 40 in Agenda 21, “Information6 for DecisionMaking,” stresses the need for more and different types of data to be collected at all scales to track the status and trends of Earth’s ecosystems, natural resources, pollution, and socioeconomic variables. Chapter 40 concludes that “the gap in the availability, quality, coherence, standardization and accessibility of data between the developed7 and the developing world has been increasing, seriously impairing the capacities of countries to make informed decisions concerning environment and development.”8 Five years after UNCED in a 1997 assessment of Agenda 21 action items (UN, 1997), most of the nine responding African governments9 described their existing databases as “poor” or containing “some good data but many gaps.” Ten years after UNCED the work of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, which presses for greater awareness of the significance of geographic information in socioeconomic development among African governments and other sectors10 (ECA, 2001), illustrated that much remained to be achieved in applying geographic information to sustainable development. Geographic data are obtained from ground-based (in situ) measurements or from remote-sensing systems. These data are of little practical value in sustainable development decision-making if they cannot be analyzed in conjunction with development data, such as economic or health data, that are geographically referenced11 (Jensen, 2000). Data that describe environment and development can be linked by geographic location to provide greater understanding of complex issues, and GISs were developed specifically for this purpose. A GIS is formed from a set of map layers or overlays registered to a common geographic coordinate system (Figure 1-2) and is “a digital information system that is designed to work with data referenced by spatial or geographic coordinates” (Star and Estes, 1990). Geographic information systems are powerful tools for ingesting, storing, retrieving, transforming, processing, and displaying geographic data (Burrough, 1986). If a GIS involves the integration of geographically referenced data in a problem-solving situation, it can become important for decision-making, or a “decision-support system” (Cowen, 1988). Geospatial capacity is essential for all these steps so that full use can be made of the capabilities of geographic data for supporting sustainable-development decision-making. Geographic data provide information for sustainable development across many sectors including agriculture and aquaculture, industry, mining, health, transportation, trade, and tourism (Table 1-2). These data can contribute to implementing Agenda 21 in Africa. Among the Agenda 21 issues (Table 1-1), many African nations, international organizations, and African non-governmental organizations have identified poverty and the unequal distribution of benefits of development as the most important in Africa today. Poverty eradication will require equitable economic and social development within sustainable environmental parameters. The 5   Capacity is the ability to undertake certain activities, solve problems, and achieve objectives (Fukuda-Parr et al., 2002), such as interpreting a map (an example of human capacity), possessing a computer (organizational capacity), or sharing data (societal capacity). Capacity is built by enhancing these abilities. 6   Information is data that humans assimilate and evaluate to solve a problem or make a decision (EIS-Africa, 2001). 7   Developed countries are those with “high” gross national income (World Bank, 2002). Developing countries are those with “low” or “medium” gross national income. The committee adopted these terms in the report. 8   Development includes at least four related concepts (Dernbach, 2002): peace and security, economic development, social development, and national governance that secures peace and development. 9   Algeria, Benin, Egypt, Gabon, Malawi, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. 10   The committee applies the term “sector” to groupings such as environmental, social, and economic sectors. 11   These are data with known latitude, longitude, and elevation, or other horizontal and vertical coordinates.

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Down to Earth: Geographic Information for Sustainable Development in Africa FIGURE 1-2 A geographic information system consists of a number of geographic data layers that are linked to one another in a common geographic coordinate system (such as latitude and longitude). In this example the various thematic layers consist of remotely sensed data (from Landsat Thematic Mapper), the hydrologic network, digital elevation, the road network, and watershed boundaries. environment is the fundamental matrix providing natural resources, waste assimilation, and links between people and the natural world (NRC, 2002). STRUCTURE OF THE REPORT The report is designed as a resource to develop an appreciation for the applicability of geographic data to sustainable development issues and to highlight a path toward integration of geographic information into the decision-making process. Its structure is in three parts. Introductory material (Chapters 2-3); Technology: Infrastructure, data sources, and tools (Chapters 4-7); and Capacity building (Chapter 8). Chapter 2 describes progress towards sustainable development in a global and African context, and the main challenges for implementation of Agenda 21. Chapter 2 ends with a discussion of the value of geographic information for implementing Agenda 21. Chapter 3 introduces the case-study regions in sub-Saharan Africa and describes ongoing activities in these regions that involve remote-sensing and GIS. Chapter 4 examines the status and prospects of infrastructures that facilitate broad use of geographic information. Spatial data and telecommunications are the infrastructures described. Chapters 5 and 6 summarize fundamental and supplemental sources of geographic data and their adequacy for Agenda 21 applications. These chapters are supported by technical annexes, and by a list of acronyms in Appendix D. Chapter 7 discusses decision-support tools (in particular GIS) that assist users in converting geographic data into valuable information for decision-makers. The final section (Chapter 8) examines geospatial capacity building—human, organizational, and societal. It looks at ongoing efforts and ways geospatial capacity building may ensure that countries in Africa continue on a path toward sustained use of geographic information in Agenda 21 action items. Specific examples from the four case-study regions and applications of geographic data and tools to sustainable development challenges in Africa are discussed throughout the report. Chapter 3 presents in tables a broad range of applications in the agriculture and natural resource sectors, environmental monitoring, and demography. Human health and food security are prominent issues in Africa, and Chapters 6 and 7 discuss data for managing contagious and vector-borne disease (e.g., malaria), famine early warning, and early warning systems in forestry and livestock management. Chapter 7 also describes a decision-support system for wildlife management. The committee’s recommendations appear in Chapters 4 through 8, and are summarized in a concluding chapter (Chapter 9).

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Down to Earth: Geographic Information for Sustainable Development in Africa TABLE 1-2 Common Issues for Development Planners and Natural Resource Managers in Africa and Applications of Geographic Data and Information Issue Geographic Data and Information Needs Land classification and land-use planning • Elevation data • Vegetation cover • Soil data • Climatic data Land allocation (allocate land to citizens for various uses) • Land classification information to ensure compatibility of use with allocated land • Population statistics Land resource use and management (ensuring land is used for designated use; planning for future use) • Cadastral data showing allocated users and uses • Administrative land records • Legal land registers Infrastructure and urban management (efficient and equitable provision of urban services) • Population statistics • Location of existing services: waste disposal, water, and power installations (and statistics thereon) • Urban road networks Transportation (providing energy-efficient and safe transportation systems) • Elevation data • Geophysical data • Statistics of trips between population and employment centers Tourism (developing and promoting eco-tourism) • Location of existing tourist facilities • Statistics on tourist preferences and capacities of facilities • Decision support for land-use decisions Sewage discharge (prevention of discharge of untreated sewage into water bodies) • Location and capacities of existing sewage treatment plants • Statistics on population centers Water resource management and conservation (to ensure sustained use of water for domestic, industrial, and agricultural uses) • Location of water bodies and courses with flow and condition data • Location of water users • Meteorological data on precipitation, evaporation • Geophysical data on rock formations • Water consumption statistics Pollution prevention/management • Location of potential sources of pollution • Location of pathways of pollutant dispersal (e.g., water courses) • Data on products of industry and input raw materials Land degradation (to enforce land-use practices, ensure security of tenure, combat desertification) • Land-use data • Distribution of land cover • Land allocation data • Land tenure data • Population data • Climate data • Soils data • Data on management practices Rangeland and livestock management • Distribution of agro-ecological zones • Livestock statistics Forest resource management • Land-use data and classifications • Vegetation cover • Census of endangered species • Population data • Location of fuel-energy-intensive industries Biological diversity (conservation of unique and endangered species; management of national parks, nature reserves, protected areas) • Distribution and concentration of unique flora and fauna • Illegal traffic in endangered species • Land cover change • Elevation distribution • Transportation infrastructure Energy resource management (to reduce dependence on biomass energy, and to develop renewable energy sources) • Population and socio-economic data, including energy demand • Distribution of forest resources • Climatic data for solar and wind power developments

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Down to Earth: Geographic Information for Sustainable Development in Africa Issue Geographic Data and Information Needs Mineral resource management • Distribution of mineral resources • Administrative data on exploration and prospecting activities Human health management (equitable distribution of health facilities; early diagnosis, prompt treatment and environmental management; hygiene education) • Demographic data • Location and capacity of existing facilities and population centers • Distribution of disease vectors • Distribution of water pockets for remedial action • Distribution, flow, and chemical characteristics of water courses   SOURCE: Adapted from ECA (2001) REFERENCES Burrough, P. A. 1986. Principles of Geographic Information Systems for Land Resource Assessment. Monographs on Soil and Resources Survey No. 12, New York: Oxford University Press. Colwell, R. N. 1997. History and place of photographic interpretation. Pp 33–48 in Manual of Photographic Interpretation, W. R. Philipson, ed. Bethesda, MD.: American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Cowen, D. J. 1988. GIS versus CAD versus DBMS: What are the differences? Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 54:1551-1554. Dernbach, J. C. 2002. Sustainable Development: Now More Than Ever. Environmental Law Reporter 32 (1):10003-10019. ECA (UN Economic Commission for Africa). 2001. The Future Orientation of Geoinformation Activities in Africa: A Position Paper. Available at <http://www.uneca.org/eca_resources/Conference_Reports_and_Other_Documents/disd/codi/docs/doc3EN.pdf>. Accessed May 15, 2002. EIS-Africa (Environmental Information Systems-Africa). 2001. Environmental Information Systems Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: Approaches, Lessons and Challenges, E. Gavin and J. Gyamfi-Aidoo, eds. EIS-Africa. Fukuda-Parr, S., C. Lopes, and K. Malik. 2002. Capacity for Development: New Solutions to Old Problems. London: Earthscan Publications. Geography Education Standards Project. 1994. Geography for Life: National Geography Standards. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society. GISD (Geographic Information for Sustainable Development). 2002. Geographic Information for Sustainable Development. Available at <www.opengis.org/gisd>. Accessed May 15, 2002. Jensen, J. R. 2000. Remote Sensing of the Environment: An Earth Resource Perspective. Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. NRC (National Research Council). 1999. Our Common Journey: a Transition Toward Sustainability. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. NRC. 2002. Community and Quality of Life: Data Needs for Informed Decision Making. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Star, J. L. and J. Estes. 1990. Geographic Information Systems: An Introduction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. UN (United Nations). 1997. Earth Summit: Rio + 5. Country Profiles–African States. Available at <http://www.un.org/esa/earthsummit/africp.htm>. Accessed May 17, 2002. UN. 2001. SADC Progress Report on the Implementation of Agenda 21 and Sustainable Development: A Report to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. Available at <www.johannesburgsummit.org/web_pages/sadc_prepcom_progress_report.pdf>. UNCED (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development). 1992. Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992. Rio de Janeiro: UN. (Annex I: Rio Declaration; Annex II: Agenda 21). WCED (World Commission on Environment and Development). 1987. Our Common Future. New York: Oxford University Press. World Bank. 2002. Data and Statistics. Available at <http://www.worldbank.org/data/countrydata/countrydata.html>. Accessed June 5, 2002.