Satellite technology helps reduce drought risk

satellite images that sense drought
Kenya: Besides the strength and location of the drought, information is also provided about the spatial extent and the duration of the drought.

Luigi Luminari, a technical advisor at Systems for Drought Management in Kenya, says that before the technology came in, it was very difficult to monitor drought in Kenya.

"We used to get conflicting and misleading information from arid and semi-arid areas. Some regions are generally very dry and when rains fail for some time, they say they are in extreme drought. Now we can plan, detect drought early and advise even at policy level on what measures to take."

Luminari says in January they were able to come up with an analysis of the drought situation in the country and how some regions such as Wajir, Marsabit, Isiolo and Garissa had recorded severe and extreme drought phases. Not all regions in the mentioned areas were hit by drought as per the report.

With this information, he says, they are now able to plan for disaster and seek donor support appropriately. He also points out that the four major phases of drought - normal, alert, alarm and emergency - are all derived from this kind of scientific information received from the remote sensing technology.

The satellite remote sensing also comes up with a vegetation conditioning index that measures levels of photosynthesis. This index predicts looming drought and allows for authorities to out proper intervention mechanisms in place.

In 2011, Kenya had one of the worst droughts in recent times and it was exacerbated by lack of preparedness.

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