Rangelands And Pasture Productivity (RAPP) Experts convene in Pretoria

SANSA and Common Wealth Scientific Research Organisation, Australia (CSIRO) with support from Department of Science and Technology (DST) and City of Tshwane hosted the 4th Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring Initiative (GEOGLAM) Rangelands And Pasture Productivity (RAPP) workshop in Pretoria on 27-29 June 2016. The workshop was attended by 42 international and national scientists focussing on remote sensing and geospatial modelling in range and pasture management and research.

From right: Dr Alex Herd (CSIRO), Dr Phil Mjwara (DST), Dr Sandile Malinga (SANSA) and Dr Jane Olwoch (SANSA)

In South Africa range lands cover over 80% of SA land surface and are an important source of several ecosystem services and functions. In Africa, rangelands resource supports a large population of domestic ruminants totalling over 110 million head of cattle and 180 million head of sheep and goats, in addition to an unknown number of other ruminants, including wild species.  However, these important resources are under siege from overgrazing, habitat transformation, degradation from both natural and anthropogenic causes, including Climate change.

To make matters worse most are communal and are currently experiencing conflicts related to land use and ownership.  Their sustained management is essential and initiative  such as the GEOGLAM RAPP are play a fundamental role in developing novel earth observation methodologies for monitoring rangeland productivity and health. Rangeland management is critical for sustainable grazing and wildlife management.

Livestock ranching and wildlife tourism and contributes significantly to South Africa’s economy through its impact to the gross domestic product (GDP), food security, sustainable livelihood, poverty alleviation, employment creation, ecotourism and production of raw material. The rising global population is increasing putting pressure on animal protein demand. It is therefore important to preserve the long term productivity of the rangelands and the collaborative initiatives such as GEOGLAM RAPP are making headway in providing reliable, consistent, systematic and timely measurements of the status, condition, and temporal dynamics of our rangelands using robost earth technologies. The systematic monitoring of rangelands is increasingly becoming important in the wake of climate change.

The results of the GEOGLAM RAPP project are expected to cascade down to the vulnerable grassroot communities and farmers that depend entirely on livestock ranging for their livelihoods. The workshop provided a platform for collaborations and sharing of experiences between local experts and international teams on validation and verification of satellite data products and grassland productivity modelling. True to the GEO strategic goals, the GEOGLAM RAPP workshop advocated for capacity-building through the sharing of data, methods and analysis tools. The establishment of common standards and methods for the global implementation of the future GEOGLAM RAPP system was emphasised throughout the workshop.

Vaneshree Maharaj