Midlands State University and its partners convened a Stakeholder Engagement and User Needs Assessment workshop which was aimed at gathering information on the needs, expectations and experiences of various stakeholders across the region, on the nature of the products and services that can be developed to promote sustainable wetland utilization, monitoring and assessment.

The partners include Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management and Technical Partners and South Africa National Space Agency among others. The workshop whose participants were drawn from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe was held in Harare from the 3rd to the 7th of December 2019. The workshop was based on the Wetland Assessment and Monitoring Service for Transboundary River Basins in Southern Africa (WeMAST) project, whose aim is to design, develop and operationalise an integrated Earth Observation (EO) based platform that can provide wetland information services to target groups and end users.

The platform is intended for use in assessing and monitoring wetlands, located in Southern African transboundary basins such as the Cuvelai, Limpopo, Okavango and Zambezi. The Pro-Vice Chancellor- Research and Academic Affairs Professor Doreen Moyo applauded the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme which operates under the auspices of African Union Commission for funding the WeMAST project workshop to explore ways for the collective effort in preserving the global and local natural resources which are essential for human survival.

“If the current challenges on ecosystems, primary forests, water and land escalates people’s living conditions could undergo a profound transformation in the future with far reaching consequences. Therefore, massive efforts are needed for the collective management of natural resources at both global and local levels,” she said.

MSU Principal Investigator in the WeMast project Dr Thomas Marambanyika said there is a need to understand threats, land uses, adequacy of existing wetland monitoring frameworks and provide information that can inform the development of relevant Earth Observation based products and services.

“The workshop`s major objectives were to identify, engage and determine various stakeholder needs relevant for the successful development and implementation of the WeMast project online platform, seek information on the adequacy of available wetland monitoring and assessment frameworks in place across Southern Africa,” said Dr. Marambanyika.

A field visit by all Technical Partners in in WeMAST consortium was carried out in the Driefontein wetland in Chirumhanzu district to understand local communities’ challenges in wetland management.

Principal Investigator for the University of Zambia, Dr Kawawa Banda highlighted that the Wetlands in Driefontein area are depreciating and there is need for acceleration in terms of efforts to preserve this natural phenomenon.

“It is with great concern to note that Driefontein wetland is under severe stress and it is clear to us as a team that the area needs to be protected and it is upon us as a team to come up with ways to make the wetland more productive for the local people.”

The WeMast project is not only concentrating on the wetlands across the SADC region and it has attracted the attention of Basin Commissions, Water Authorities, Conservation Authorities, Government Departments, Non-Governmental Organisations, Universities and Research Institutions, Private Sector, Local Authorities, Local Communities’ representatives, Interest Groups and the Media from across the region.

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