In October 2017, Vital Signs together with the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies and National Aeronautics and Space Administration held a capacity building workshop for the Global Environment Facility(GEF) Land Degradation Monitoring toolbox in Morogoro, Tanzania. The workshop aimed at providing guidance, methods and a toolbox for assessing and monitoring status and trends of land degradation using remote sensing technology.The workshop brought together over 30 key participants from government and non-governmental organizations in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Senegal which were the selected pilot countries for the project.
Land degradation has been highlighted as a key development challenge by numerous international processes including the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification(UNCCD), Sustainable Development Goals among others. It is estimated that about 2.6 billion people are affected by land degradation and desertification with annual estimated costs of US$231 billion per year. Sub Saharan Africa accounts for 26% of the total global costs due to land use and land cover change . Despite these known threats, measures to halt and reverse land degradation have been hampered by a lack of reliable data as well as cost effective, methods for collecting and analyzing such data to determine status and trends in land degradation at a scale appropriate for use and national and subnational levels. This formed the basis of the GEF funded project and workshop on "Enabling the use of global data sources to assess and monitor land degradation at multiple Scales"
The workshop included a field visit to nearby farmland, woodland and protected areas allowing the participants to validate some of the toolbox results after detecting these specific regions as areas of ‘degradation’ or ‘improvement’ through the toolbox. The field visits also provided an opportunity for the participants to simulate ground truthing.
Utilizing remote sensing, the toolbox solves several barriers to monitoring and reporting of land degradation by standardizing the various indicators (UNCCD SDG 15.3 – productivity, land cover, and soil carbon) and methods used to assess land degradation. The toolbox also solves inconsistencies in reporting on both national and sub-national scales through utilizing open-source global tools and data sources. The toolbox is available online with an offline version to be launched soon. .
Following the workshop, the participants were appreciative of the toolbox which requires limited programming and GIS skills to operate . The participants also appreciated the fact that the tool box utilizes open source software including Quantum GIS and R Programming language easing its applicability.The participants gave feedback for improvement of the toolbox which included adding an option for users to add locally available data sets such as land cover maps in addition to using global data sets.
The tool box is available in French and English and has a wide variety of applications including informing countries, sustainable land management initiatives and donors alike to understand national and regional patterns for prioritization.In addition,the toolbox directly supports monitoring of the SDG indicator on land degradation (15.3.1) overall improving the countries’ ability to report estimates and trends in land degradation to the UNCCCD and the GEF and mainstreaming understanding of land degradation into national and sub national policies and planning mechanisms.
For more information on this work please visit the project’s website at www.vitalsigns.org/gef-ldmp
 Nkonya E. et al. (2016) Global Cost of Land Degradation. In: Nkonya E., Mirzabaev A., von Braun J. (eds)."Economics of Land Degradation and Improvement – A Global Assessment for Sustainable Development.https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-19168-3_6