rect “alarm” that there has been some kind of land-cover change). Subsequently, detailed analysis can be done through ground observations.

The agricultural and natural resource management sectors are among the main users of geographic information making land cover a priority area for the development of spatial decision-support systems in Africa. A land-cover decision-support system should include a standard classification system; baseline data and change detection capabilities; hot spot detection and high risk zone prediction capabilities; analysis and modeling of proximate (mainly human) causes of change; linkages between direct observations, case studies, and models; and established environmental indicators.


Management of natural resources and development in a sustainable manner is ultimately a process of evaluation and decision-making. Decision-making is a complex process that involves value judgments and analysis of a broad array of information. GIS is a decision-support tool that can be used to integrate many kinds of data into a usable format, analyze data, and produce descriptive and predictive modeling of alternative scenarios.

Many decision-makers in developed and developing countries have no experience with GIS and other spatial decision-support tools, and thus do not appreciate their potential. Additional impediments to implementation of spatial decision-support systems include the orientation of projects toward data production rather than application; lack of planning for the decision-support process; lack of communication between technicians and scientists within an organization; and lack of inclusion of university research that could drive data analysis. Nonetheless, there are demonstrations of the value of decision-support tools in the African context such as the continent-wide MARA and FEWS NET programs, the Miombo Network in southern Africa, the Livestock Early Warning System in East Africa, and the Community Based Natural Resources Management program in Namibia.

Presently, there is a limited commercial market for geographic information, services, and technologies in Africa, but the need for spatial decision-support systems and demand is likely to grow. The agricultural and natural resource management sectors are among the main users of geographic information making land cover a priority area for the development of spatial decision-support systems in Africa.

Human, societal, and organizational capacity is needed to integrate geographic information and spatial decision-support tools into the decision-making process. The next chapter discusses geospatial capacity building.


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