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African Women in GIS (AWiGIS)- Our Story

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African Women in GIS (AWiGIS) is a community of African women around the world who either study, work or are interested in the geospatial industry. This community was borne out of the desire of two young women, Cyhana Williams from Ghana and Chidimma Umeogu from Nigeria, to create an association that fostered community and encouraged other African women to pursue GIS careers. They also sought to display the application prospects of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) field for Africa.

The community’s major objective is to create a forum that gives women of African descent (whether living in Africa or in the diaspora) the freedom to create connections, gain mentors, learn new skills, access education in GIS-related schools as well as job-related advice and opportunities.

The African Women in GIS community first started out as two separate country groups. Chidimma created her group on 29th July, 2017 for Women in GIS- Nigeria whiles Cyhana formed hers in April, 2019 called Women in GIS – Ghana. Together, these groups had members who were students and workers in the GIS field. It was a little tough garnering women in Ghana since the visibility and awareness of GIS was low. Thus, some students especially women who studied GIS in their undergraduate studies switched to a different career path after graduation due to the difficulty in getting a sustainable GIS job.

Cyhana Williams – co-Founder

Membership

In June 2019, Chidimma and Cyhana met on LinkedIn and discussed their efforts in creating platforms for women in their individual countries. This led to a conversation of collaboration and increasing the group coverage to pan the entire African continent. Hence, the genesis of the African Women in GIS community on October 2019. It started out with forty-one (41) Nigerian members, a member from Burkina Faso and eleven (11) Ghanaian members. Nigeria is the group’s headquarters country with Ghana as the second.

Members were encouraged to invite other women with the same interests or practice to join the group. The founders researched and reached out to women on LinkedIn who were in the same field. As time went on, members became acquainted with one another and shared their views on how the community should progress with their ideas for activities. Connections groomed and the group became larger.

Chidimma Umeogu – co-Founder

Growth

In January 2020, the African Women in GIS was introduced to the rest of the world. It launched its social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) and used these platforms to reach out to more women. The platform also highlights the profiles of members in order to motivate other women who are practicing, studying or just enthusiastic about GIS. By the end of January 2020, AWiGIS had reached about one thousand (1,000) followers on LinkedIn and two hundred (200) followers on Twitter with over one hundred (100) members in its member group.

Also Read: Irene Mbari- Kirika- inABLE.org, Career and Impact

By February of 2020, the founders engaged a few members of the group as volunteers as well as a secretary who assist in the task of creating content and planning group activities in order to improve the member and public engagement. In May 2020, AWiGIS gained about 2,500 followers on LinkedIn with almost 200 active members from Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia , Kenya Cameroon and the Diaspora. It also launched its membership transition to Slack where a variety of channels for members to discuss, share relevant information and host tutorial activities operates efficiently. Although membership is strictly for women, other activities are open to the public.

The Future

In all enthusiasm and excitement, we have a number of activities planned out for the next few months as well as into the future. Members of the community proposed some activities whilst others were opportunities gotten from key individuals and organizations who reached out to the community.

For starters, AWiGIS has an upcoming volunteering project with Ibisa Network – an Organization that aims to aid small-scale farmers with satellite images of their farms to help them get insurance covers. The community collaborates with Ibisa Network by providing the AWiGIS members a volunteering opportunity with Ibisa where they will be assessing satellite images of farmlands. Through this volunteering project, the members get to add this work experience to their CVs as well as other incentives.

After the pandemic, AWiGIS plans to encourage the members to host outreach programs to schools and other groups. There, the members will help educate students about GIS and show them some impressive visualizations of GIS application as well as some roles of this technology in the real world. In addition, the official AWiGIS website will be launched and it will serve as a platform to display African GIS applications. It will also be a job recruitment site for geospatial roles in Africa.

Esther Moore – Secretary

We are excited about the various plans we have in place for the community, Africa and for the world at large. Follow us, join us and view the geospatial world through the eyes of African Women.

Author: Esther Moore

African Women In GIS

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NGOs - SDGs

Nestlé launches RE Pilot Project to empower informal waste reclaimers in Tembisa, Gauteng

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In celebration of National Recycling Week and Let’s Do It World Clean-up Day 2021, Nestlé East & Southern Africa Region joined forces with Kudoti, a waste tech start-up, to launch its ‘RE-Imagine Tomorrow’ pilot project in Tembisa to demonstrate how the circular economy is a viable solution for tackling the waste problem.

By working with Kudoti and Destination Green, the implementation partner and buy back centre, Nestlé will enable 100 waste reclaimers to use technology to track the amount of waste collected and find buyers through Kudoti’s technology platform and network. The waste collectors will be empowered and trained on how to make an income and will receive a monthly stipend through a subsidy by Nestlé.  Training will include business and finance education to equip the waste reclaimers to further boost their incomes along with the provision of physical resources such as protective gear.  One of the other elements contributed by Nestlé will be the purchase of a forklift to further assist the operation in the long run.

The ‘RE-Imagine Tomorrow’ pilot project will be a phased intervention for the community of Mqantsa, Tembisa. The beginning of the phase is about awakening a focused increase of waste collection through the informal waste reclaimers. Engage will include educating the community on rethinking their relationship with waste and reducing their own waste footprint.  Finally, the sustain phase will bring to life repurposing by creating beauty out of waste for the benefit of the community through public furniture created from the waste collected. The circular economy model aims to use waste streams as secondary resources and recover waste for reuse and recycling. This approach is expected to achieve efficient economic growth while minimising negative environmental impact.

Saint-Francis Tohlang, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Director at Nestlé East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR),adds . “Informal waste reclaimers play an important role in the management of waste. It is important that we appreciate their role as heroes and find ways in which we can empower them further as we strive for a waste free future. This pilot project is part of our broader RE sustainability initiative which focuses on the pillars of rethink reduce and repurpose. Through working with a tech start-up, waste collectors, recyclers and the community, we believe we are engaging key stakeholders in the waste management cycle to be able to RE-imagine tomorrow. We hope that through this pilot project our partners and the community of Tembisa will see that there are opportunities that can be found in what we see as waste.”

The RE initiative encourages society to RETHINK, REDUCE and REPURPOSE. The RETHINK pillar is about encouraging broader society to rethink its relationship with the environment. Nestlé will educate the public about ways to change their behaviour to serve the environment through responsible practices such as recycling. The REDUCE pillar highlights Nestlé’s commitment towards reducing its environmental impact to zero carbon emissions by 2030. Lastly, the REPURPOSE pillar focuses on upcycling and reusing materials which are crucial to driving a circular economy.

“Through this initiative, we hope to drive a paradigm shift by formulating and implementing solutions that will safeguard the environment. We hope that initiatives such as RE will encourage people not only in Tembisa, but across the country, to play their part and RETHINK, REDUCE and REPURPOSE,” concluded Tohlang.

Members of the community and over 20 waste reclaimers, along with Nestlé, Kudoti, Destination Green and members of the media took part in a clean-up in Mqantsa, Tembisa on the day to strengthen its collective contribution to a waste-free future for the community.

 

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Innovative partnerships needed to tackle climate related disasters

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Drought Image (Supplied)

The devastating crisis in Madagascar sounds a stark warning of the need to take urgent action for Africa according to Ibrahima Cheikh Diong, Director General of the African Risk Capacity Group.

“Drought may well be the next pandemic after COVID-19 and there’s no vaccine to cure it.” If the words of Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction don’t compel us to take immediate action, Africa will continue to bear the scars of barren wastelands caused by climate change-induced drought. Southern Africa, East Africa, the Horn of Africa and now Madagascar are just the start. The short-term solution to building resilience requires a multi-faceted approach involving both private and public sectors, says Diong.

“Our affiliate, ARC Ltd, which recently received a BBB+ Insurer Financial Strength rating from Fitch, works with governments, NGOs and funders to provide customised parametric insurance. This  empowers African governments and NGOs to respond swiftly to natural disasters on the continent, but there’s a lot of work that needs to go into building distribution networks to ensure that we can reach as many people as possible. We need to build a coalition of the private and public sector,” Diong adds.

While governments are key in dealing with resilience to climate change, it’s the ability of the private sector to take action that will make all the difference, he says.

“Partnerships should extend beyond governments. The private sector is an essential partner for leveraging funding and experience demonstrates that private-sector entities are capable of rapidly taking up opportunities when and if these make sense from a business angle.”

There are several examples where a collaborative approach is already working well. Diong cites ARC Group’s partnerships with organisations such as the Start Network and World Food Programme (WFP), and funders such as the German Development Bank, UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and African Development Bank which are working to provide that resilience for African countries.

Shifting the disaster risk architecture

Emily Jones, as Climate and Disaster Risk Financing Advisor for WFP, highlights the challenges of convincing authorities to be more proactive than reactive when preventing human suffering and hardship when events like drought occur.

“Unfortunately, no one person or organisation can make the necessary shift alone. Change starts with building resilience and insurance plays a significant role in that, particularly in climate change,” says Jones.

Governments pay a premium every year and receive their agreed-upon pay-out if and when a predicted disaster occurs. “This money can then be used to help those people affected, with the remainder of the pay-out going towards covering other consequences that might not have been expected, such as conflict or a loss of progress in terms of important local development projects,” she says.

“Humanitarians are working on highlighting the need to predict crises and act before they manifest in an effort to avoid human suffering. After all, why wait if you don’t have to?”

Jones speaks about how most authorities in African countries perceive insurance as a gamble when it should rather be seen as a risk management tool. Unfortunately, many simply don’t have the necessary tools available to plan, which is where ARC comes in.

“It’s amazing that ARC Limited is offering this type of insurance. However, insurance is really only cost-effective for catastrophic events that happen infrequently – perhaps once every 10 years – and if the governments that they’re selling the insurance to don’t have other solutions, they’re going to be taking out insurance that’s less than optimal,” Jones explains.

“So, something that WFP, ARC, and the African Development Bank wants to work on in the coming years is a risk-layering approach. This would involve introducing other tools for coping with those medium-scale events so that we can optimise ARC and hopefully offer better products, as well as ensure improved buy-in, a greater understanding of the products’ importance, and a track record of success,” she adds.

Responding swiftly to natural disasters

Since ARC Limited was established in 2014, the company has paid out $65-million in drought-relief efforts to seven different countries.

“In particular, the collaboration between the African Development Bank and ARC shows how coming together makes a major difference. In 2020, the ARC drought-relief pay-outs to Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Côte d’Ivoire totalled $6-million,” says Diong.

Madagascar received a payment of over $2,1-million, which was allocated to food assistance for 15,000 households, nutritional support to 2,000 children and 1,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women, and water supplies to over 84,000 households.

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Reaching the most vulnerable, however, is difficult, adds Malvern Chirume, Chief Underwriting Officer ARC Limited.  “One of the big challenges is access to the final customer, bearing in mind that most of our beneficiaries of the programmes are small- to medium-scale farmers and therefore it’s not cost-effective to access them one at a time.” 

With climate change, we can expect extreme weather events to hit harder and more frequently in coming years. In a 1.5 degree warmer world, there is no doubt that drought will be a more regular event.

The GAR Special Report on Drought 2021 launched earlier this year is a call to action: we must act now if we are to meet the goals of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and create a safer, more resilient, risk-proofed future for all.

“Drought is not something that hits us suddenly, nor something that we can quarantine our way out of. Drought manifests over months, years, sometimes decades, and the results are felt just as long. Drought exhibits and exacerbates the social and economic inequalities that are deep-rooted within our systems and hits the most vulnerable the hardest,” says Chirume.

“While we may not be able to prevent it, we can certainly be prepared to deal with its impact by building resilience and providing swift support to those who are left vulnerable.”

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Shifting Africa’s climate change disaster risk architecture before COP26 and beyond

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All eyes are on the existential crisis posed by climate change as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP26) approaches, with many warning that lessons for dealing with climate change threats must be learned from how Africa has handled the current COVID crisis.

Resilience in Africa to these climate change impacts can only be built with the assistance of developed countries and these have a vested long-term interest in providing this support, says Ange Chitate, COO African Risk Capacity Limited.

“Beyond COVID, the most critical risk to Africa is the availability of water, which is directly linked to climate change. The continent is extremely vulnerable to and bears the brunt of drought, flooding, cyclones and other climate change-led weather events, even though it has actually had very little impact on carbon emission,” says Chitate.

This is particularly serious for a continent like Africa which depends so heavily on agriculture for its economy and employment.

“When one considers that agriculture sustains two thirds of Africa’s employment and that more than 80% of agriculture in Africa is conducted by small- to medium-scale farmers who are at the mercy of climate change events completely out of their control, COP26 talks have to deliver practical and meaningful support from developed countries to help ensure a high level of preparedness in the developing world for what is being touted as the next pandemic,” Chitate adds.

It is a view shared by South Africa Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy, who says if COP26 is to be successful, developing countries need support from developed countries in the form of finance, technology and capacity building.

South Africa’s suggested global goal on adaptation sees focus being placed on “the most vulnerable people and communities; their health and well-being; food and water security; infrastructure and the built environment; and ecosystems and ecosystem services, particularly in Africa, Small Island states and Least Developed Countries”.

Minister Creecy also calls on developed countries to ensure access to long-term, predictable and affordable finance for developing communities.

Building Africa climate change resilience through natural disaster insurance relief

“There’s a responsibility for G7 countries to support Africa in managing the impact of climate change by, for example, providing sovereigns with parametric insurance premium finance to help them respond swiftly and decisively to crises fueled by climate change on the continent,” says Delphine Traoré, ARC Limited Non-Executive Director.

Established in 2014, ARC Limited provides natural disaster insurance relief to African countries which have joined the sovereign risk pool.

Along with its partners, which provide premium support, the insurer has already paid over US$65m to seven countries to provide drought relief and address the economic concerns these countries’ most vulnerable citizens face.

Governments then make payments to the most vulnerable households in drought-stricken or other climate-affected areas so the most vulnerable communities can supplement their food budgets if reduced harvest tends to push up food prices.

“Our role is explaining to African governments the importance of having this type of insurance and accounting for food security and disaster risk in their budgetary work process.

“There’s been a lot of work done by ARC Limited with the support of the African Development Bank and other financial institutions to see how we can support these countries with a super replica programme. We need to do more still to find a sustainable way to do premium financing for countries that are not able to afford it but that are quite impacted by climate change impacts,” says Traoré.

Most recently, ARC Limited paid out US$2.1m to the Madagascar Government to meet the food security needs of over 600,000 people affected by the devastating drought.

ARC Limited’s role as a parametric insurer is critically important in building resilience and ensuring a country is able to bounce back swiftly after a natural disaster.  “We monitor the rainfall of countries in the risk pool and sovereign insurance pay outs are triggered when the system reveals that there hasn’t been enough rain, before droughts get to a crisis stage, farmers are left with nothing and people are starving,” explains Chitate.

The programme further helps countries build capacity to manage climate-related risks. In this way it attempts to shift the disaster risk management architecture to be proactive, not reactive, says Chitate.

“We see a tangential benefit of this type of programme being the increasing sophistication of countries to better understand risk. The current COVID pandemic is a good example of this.

“When dealing with risk mitigation and management, one needs to examine the reason why governments don’t act. On the insurance side, one of the issues to address is around premium affordability because it’s quite expensive to insure against natural disasters and payment of premium competes against other national priorities,” explains Chitate.

Sovereigns which participate in the ARC programme must also develop a contingency plan which sets out at a very high level how the government would spend any insurance pay out they receive from ARC.

“Through this plan, we ensure the funds get to the intended beneficiaries. Having a plan increases dramatically the speed of execution because at a point the government received the funding, it already has a plan on how to disburse this,” she says.

With US$100 million in its kitty, ARC says it probably has the largest balance sheet dedicated to climate risks in Africa.

 

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