MyCOE/SERVIR East Africa: outreach seminar (Linköping University)

Last December’s MyCOE/SERVIR fellowship workshop in Nairobi has already been the inspiration for new research work at Rhodes University that integrates geographical technologies with field-based research.

Kate and I are presenting a seminar at Linköping University’s TEMA-Vatten today (and at Northampton University next week) that looks at extreme weather events in the Sneeuberg Mountains of the Karoo in South Africa because these destructive floods are becoming increasingly severe. Our seminar examines the new rainfall information which we have collected and compares this with satellite-derived precipitation data accessed using the Giovanni data portal.

Here’s our presentation (21mb file):


MyCOE/SERVIR programme: ground truthing in the Drakensberg, South Africa

It is three months since Natalie and I returned from the MyCOE/SERVIR programme in Nairobi.  Since then Natalie has started the new academic year – her Honours year – and I have started six months sabbatical leave.  But we have been busy with the research programme: acquiring and analysing Landsat, SPOT and Ikonos data for her study area which is high in the foothills of the Transkei Drakensberg.  Last week was our first opportunity to visit the area.  Bennie van der Waal was already there doing river and sediment surveys for his PhD assisted by his friend (and ex Rhodes Geography student) Dylan Weyr.  We travelled up with Kate direct from the Honours weekend at Ford Fordyce and spending a night at Tsitsa Falls before arriving at Zamuxolo where we shared a (waterless) house behind the police station.  There was plenty of power, however, thanks to the banks of solar panels.

We spent the next three days driving and hiking around the Vuvu and Phiri catchments examining how, and whether, our remote sensed imagery matched the situation on the ground.  So we needed to visit each of the eight land cover categories we had defined – this was quite tiring work as we were often at the road head and had to walk up the deep valleys to around 2000 metres.  But the scenery was spectacular, the light was superb for photographs and we were well prepared for the task with maps, GPS and clinometer.  It was sometimes hot (one day our cheese sandwiches melted in our back packs!) with big thunder storms every afternoon.

Back home at Rhodes we have been busy interpreting the mapping so as to get on with the next step which is setting up the time series to see how land cover has changed in time.

Return to Kenyatta University

The MyCOE/SERVIR fellows and mentors were taken on a tour of the main Kenyatta University  campus by Prof. Onywere (you can see him greeting Dean Shisanya in the picture taken outside the main administration building). Kate and I both lectured at Kenyatta University at the start of our careers (1979 to 1985) so for me it was nostalgic return back to KU.  In those days there were 1000 students, now they have 14 separate schools and 43,000 students!  Quite a transformation. We were introduced to the Deputy Vice Chancellor and many colleagues but for me the highlight was to walk around the campus and see how it has been transformed – like so many other things along the Thika Super Highway.  There are plenty of new showpieces nestling side by side with the old facilities I remember well, and lots of green space still maintained. Here’s a selection of pictures showing the new facilities and the impressive signs.

MyCOE/SERVIR: at the Regional Centre and on the Field Trip

It has been one week of intensive work since the cocktails posting …. so here are my pictures and some quick reflections.  Lots of lab work has been done at the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development: remote sensing applications, GIS work, mentor presentations.  The day has started with the walk from ICIPE (the Duduville Guest House) through the dust of Kasarani in the morning, then work all morning, walk back through the dust for lunch and then repeat for the afternoon, evening, the next day and so on ….the first few pictures show some of that.  Of course there has also been the chance for the occasional beer later. Then yesterday we were up early for our field excursion to Mt Kenya to see the tree planting activities and Green Belt Movement communities in action.  Things got a little delayed at the start and then of course we arrived just after the rain made the last few kilometres impassable.  So we walked and were ferried up to Gathiuru,  This meant that we arrived very late in Tumutumu (lunch came at 6pm) but we were rewarded with a brief and fascinating glimpse of the sustainability activities in the heart of the highlands.  Then it was the long drive home through the traffic to Nairobi.

MyCOE/SERVIR programme opening cocktails

Last night we had a small cocktail event on the lawns of the RCMRD centre, Nairobi.  It had been a long, but very interesting, opening day listening to each of the students in the MyCOE/SERVIR programme for East Africa presenting their research proposals. Here are a few pictures from my phone of new colleagues relaxing as the sun went down – I am getting this post up as we start today’s sessions ….