Joint UK-Kenyan project to support the sustainable supply of sand and aggregates within Kenya using Earth observation data

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Satellite Applications Catapult is part of an international project called Earth Observation for Sustainable Aggregate Supply (EO4SAS), which is one of ten recently announced International Partnership Programme (IPP) projects being grant-funded through the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme, part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Sand used as aggregate forms an essential and finite resource.  Growing demand for construction – buildings and infrastructure, creating land through reclamation, and coastal protection from climate change – has resulted in supply pressures on traditional sources.  Unmanaged extraction is an emerging and locally significant problem around the world. The issue has been highlighted by the United Nations and has the potential to cause wide-ranging social, economic and environmental impacts. These impacts can include pollution, land erosion, changing water flows, reduction of biodiversity, damage to infrastructure, degradation of habits and impacts on vulnerable communities

Satellite Applications Catapult will be working with the Government of Kenya together with Pixalytics Ltd who lead the project, alongside the Kenyan partners Nairobi Design Institute and NIRAS Africa, and UK partners Chatham House and the University of Plymouth to deliver the work; in addition, the project is being supported by the minerals team from the British Geological Survey.

The team will be working with local stakeholders alongside satellite data, machine-learning technology and in-country knowledge to bring together a better understanding of the current extraction sites, scale, transportation routes and environmental impacts for sand, helping the Government of Kenya identify better strategies for the sustainable management of this resource. This is a short-term Discovery project, running until March 2021, to look at how such a system could be implemented. It is hoped the proposed solution will go on to receive further funding and so improve the monitoring and regulation of aggregate mining, supporting sustainability in the aggregate supply chain and progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr Samantha Lavender, Managing Director at Pixalytics, said “With an increasing global demand for sand, we are excited to be working with Government of Kenya, local stakeholders and communities to see how we can all work together to develop a more sustainable system for the management of this vital resource.

Liz Cox, IPP’s Head of International Relations at the UK Space Agency, said “The compelling results of previous IPP projects cement the case for investment in space for sustainable development. IPP is not only demonstrating the value of satellite solutions and improving the lives of people on the ground in developing countries, but also facilitating effective alliances between the United Kingdom and international organisations. It’s a ‘win-win’ and an exciting moment in the Programme”.