International UNESCO Training Course Focuses on Satellite Remote Sensing for Water Resources Management

The Centre for Water Resources Research (CWRR) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), the Institute of Natural Resources (INR) and the University of West England (UWE) recently played host to an eight-day international training course in Pietermaritzburg on the application of satellite remote sensing to support water resources management.

The course was developed by UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (UNESCO-IHP) through its Enhancing Climate Services for Improved Water Management (CliMWaR) programme for Africa and Latin America launched in 2018.

Around 35 participants attended from a variety of institutions and African countries, with 20 participants receiving sponsorship to attend. Attendees included professionals, water resource managers and staff from government agencies and other organisations; the training on remote sensing data sources and their application in water resources management was made practical and applicable to their own regions.

Topics included in the programme ranged from introduction to remote sensing, instruction on Digital Elevation Models (DEM) and hydrological analysis, landcover change analysis, multispectral indices, satellite precipitation estimation and introduction to networks and systems for integrated system for global real-time satellite precipitation observation. Representatives from the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) introduced an Agriculture Stress Index System and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Water Productivity Open-access portal (WaPOR). Other topics covered included soil moisture remote sensing, the African Flood and Drought Monitor, water balance applications and drought and flood analyses. Participants also had the opportunity to work together on presentations based on the material taught, and one day in the programme comprised a field trip around site of hydrological importance in KwaZulu-Natal.

Training was delivered by Dr Koen Verbist from UNESCO-IHP, Dr Nevil Quinn, Mr Harry West and Mr Michael Horswell from UWE, Dr Phu Nguyen from the University of California Irvine, Professor Justin Sheffield from the University of Southampton and Mr Vojislav Mitrovic from Princeton Climate Analytics.

Mr Roel van Hoolst and Dr Laurent Tits from VITO conducted training on WaPOR; Tits explained that the recently launched portal measuring water productivity over Africa would assist in the monitoring of water resources to meet development goals, and said it would make water accounting and reporting simpler for those using it.


Verbist explained that the course aligned with the UNESCO-IHP mandate to support its members in increasing capacity in water resources management, particularly in addressing flood and drought management proactively through strengthening monitoring systems and implementing early warning systems in Africa.

The need for this kind of training in the African region was evident in the demand for the course, with 600 applications pouring in for the limited space available. The practical content, which is designed for application, was recorded and disseminated online, with organisers exploring new ways to deliver the training.

Verbist added that the enhanced climate services are based on information from and interaction with stakeholders to ensure relevance, with the hope that trainees will connect beyond the course and build on case studies to deliver on impacts.

UNESCO-IHP has maintained a long-standing relationship with the UKZN, where establishment of a Category 2 water-related centre is in progress.

Other collaborators included the FAO, WaterNet and the Water Research Commission in South Africa, with additional support from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the state of Flanders in Belgium.

Article supplied by: Christine Cuénod

Friends of UKZN Agriculture

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