Afghanistan, a landlocked country characterized by rugged mountainous landscapes and scattered human settlements, is highly dependent on natural resources. The difficult terrain and associated inaccessibility present formidable challenges to collecting and managing field-level data and information for informed decisions leading to the sustainable management of resources.
Information gleaned from Earth observation and geospatial technology can assist decision-makers and managers in making data-driven, evidence-based decisions towards the sustainable management of natural resources in Afghanistan. They provide viable solutions to bridging data and knowledge gaps in the country.
The SERVIR Hindu Kush Himalaya (SERVIR-HKH) initiative at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) opens up opportunities for its partner organizations in Afghanistan to apply geographic information system (GIS) and remote sensing (RS). As part of its sustainable capacity building strategy, SERVIR-HKH has collaborated with Kabul University and jointly developed a training course for structured short-term trainings on the application of GIS and RS technology for water resources management.
ICIMOD's SERVIR-HKH initiative, in collaboration with Kabul University, organized a national training titled Earth Observation and Geospatial Technologies for Water Resources Management in Afghanistan.Twenty-four participants, including four women, attended the training.
SERVIR-HKH has organized multiple capacity-building events in partnership with Kabul University. A Training of Trainers workshop for the Geosciences faculty at Kabul University helped facilitate the training courses. Resource persons from ICIMOD supported the trainers from the Geosciences faculty to organize a joint training at Kabul University in September 2017 where 24 participants were trained.
With the establishment of training facilities supported by SERVIR-HKH, Kabul University now has the equipment and expertise to organize GIS/RS-related trainings. This was demonstrated by two successive trainings in December 2017 and January/February 2018, which were independently organized by Kabul University with the participation of 28 and 43 participants, respectively.
"Until very recently, it was impossible for our faculty to deliver trainings on GIS/RS. Today we are in a position to conduct trainings for other faculties and universities because of this partnership," says Ghias Safi, Dean of the Faculty of Geosciences at Kabul University.
With newly acquired skills, the Geosciences faculty is confident and geared towards delivering training courses on GIS and RS to other faculties and universities in Afghanistan. The faculty is now equipped to train other staff, within and beyond the institution.
"SERVIR's support has enhanced our capacity to analyse and generate useful climatic and hydrographic information for water resource management in agriculture and various other fields," says Zikruallah Safi, Professor of Agriculture at Kabul University.
The university has proven to be an integral partner. It can share its knowledge of geospatial and climate data use with national partners and promote access to geospatial and climate information.
ICIMOD and Kabul University are working together to develop a curriculum for an advanced course on GIS/RS for water resource management specific to Afghanistan.
Over the years, ICIMOD's Mountain Environment Regional Information System (MENRIS) Regional Programme has established itself as an internationally recognized regional resource centre that provides geo-based and remote sensing data to produce integrated and innovative solutions on the ground. Under MENRIS, the SERVIR-HKH is a joint initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). SERVIR-HKH has prioritized its activities on the themes of Agriculture and Food Security; Water Resources and Hydro-climatic Disasters; Land Cover, Land Use Change, and Ecosystems; and Weather and Climate Services with focused initiatives in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.