By Nformi Sonde Kinsai
African countries of the Congo Basin, including Cameroon, have received satellite images valued at FCFA 5.525 billion (8.5 million Euros) from the French Government.
The revelation was in Yaounde on October 21 at the start of a three-day conference by the Minister of the Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development, MINEPDED, Pierre Hele.
Participants at the international conference on the spatial observation by satellite of tropical forest in Central and West Africa were drawn from universities, research institutions, NGOs, Civil Society Organisations, technical services of ministries, consultancies, funding bodies, amongst others. It was held under the theme: “From Forest Carbon, through Research to National REDD+ Strategies.”
Stating that REDD+ stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, Conservation and Sustainable Management of Forests,” Hele said, by making available the satellite images to users, Government is demonstrating its engagement within the framework of the REDD+ mechanism.
“France, through the French Development Agency funded the production and provision of the satellite images to the tune of 8.5 million Euros to countries of Central Africa in order to enable us prepare for future REDD+ mechanism,” the Minister said.
The images acquired span for the period 2010. Archived images of the years 2000 and before were also provided.
“Spatial observation has been in use for a long time by professionals in the forest-environment sector who exploit it as a tool for planning and forest management, inventory works and forestry cartography.
“The acquisition of new images [therefore] permits the update of information over time on the evolution of forest degradation and adaptation of environmental policy,” Pierre Hele stated.
According to him, the provision of satellite images in Cameroon is a primordial source of information and its use is of added value in the putting in place of the Measure, Notification and Verification (MNV) system within the REDD+ mechanism. Hoping that results of specific activities of the research and REDD+ pilot projects would ensure technology transfer and capacity building of nationals, the Minister said the outcome of the conference would improve public policy in the sustainable management of forests and the environment.
Speaking at the occasion, the French Ambassador to Cameroon, H.E. Christine Robichon, said the conference was holding ahead of the 21st Conference of Parties on Climate Change to be hosted by Paris towards the end of 2015. She said the tropical forest found in the Congo and Amazon Basins would be at the centre of discussions during the conference.
HE Robichon noted that forest degradation contributes about 10 percent of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.
“One of the challenges of the Paris conference would be the evaluation of the REDD+ mechanism. The satellite images and data on the forest constitute some of the essential tools to be used in the evaluation.
“Treated satellite data is advantageous in monitoring the forest and fostering discussions and accords on forest conservation and preservation. Providing satellite images and data is not enough but building capacities of the personnel on how best to exploit the information is what is paramount,” the French Ambassador stated while revealing that her Government trained four experts on satellite imagery from the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, MINFOF, in 2014.
According to Robichon, keeping the forest intact to stem the negative effects of climate change is bequeathing a safer world for future generations.
“Efforts aimed at conserving the forest in the Congo and Amazon Basins would be assessed and encouraged at the 2015 Paris Conference,” she told journalists.
Other speakers at the ceremony included the Director of the Research Institute for Development (IRD), Aude Lamendour, a representative of the National Geographic Institute France International and the Director of Forestry in MINFOF, Bruno Mfou’ou Mfou’ou.
The conference, marked by presentation of scientific papers, also witnessed the symbolic handing over of samples of the satellite images to Government and diplomatic officials.