Researchers have pledged to address land use issues through the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to inform policy makers on the right activity for every place.
Arguing that application of GIS would foster sustainable urban and rural development, researchers and scientists, from different countries across the globe, expressed the commitment at the opening of an international conference on geospatial technologies in Kigali, yesterday.
The three-day conference brings together about 100 participants, including, academics, government officials, civil society and private sector players from 10 African countries, the Netherlands and the US, according to Dr Gaspard Rwanyiziri, the director of Centre for Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing.
Prof. Phillip Cotton, the vice-chancellor of the University of Rwanda, said the meeting was a good platform for researchers and policymakers to share ideas and showcase the best practices for a better application of GIS to improve livelihood in communities.
“We will discuss challenges facing land use and explore the opportunities around for land optimisation and secure for the future generation,” Prof. Cotton said, challenging researchers to avoid relying on mere theoretical studies but link their works to people’s experiences to address issues in real life.
“We will assess the feasibility and applicability of the recent research findings, seeking to devise ways to apply GIS methods to make Rwandan communities healthier,” he said.
Dr Marie Christine Gasingirwa, the director-general of science, research and technology at the Ministry of Education, said considering that Rwanda is a small but densily populated country, the application of GIS for land optimisation is paramount for sustainable development.
“Under Vision 2020, Rwanda recognises the use of technologies in development and has offered various ICT facilities to University of Rwanda,” Gasingirwa said.
She said land is one of Rwanda’s critical resources which must be preserved and optimally utilised.
Review of recent findings
Rwanyiziri said participants will review recent research findings from different countries to chart the best ways for land management, environmental sustainability, food security and spatial planning.
“We started offering GIS courses at the former National University of Rwanda in 1999 in collaboration with the University of Twente, Netherlands and graduates have been playing an instrumental role in environment sustainability, development and implementation of land registration policy and different master plans in the country,” he said.
He added that in collaboration with two Swedish varsities, University of Rwanda will introduce masters degree courses on land management next academic year with view to produce more GIS specialists who will address land-related issues in the country.
“The major challenge lies in the high price of GIS software, which currently stands at $20,000 (about Rwf15 million), and many people, especially private sector, are struggling to afford it,” he said.
The conference has been organised by University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology, in collaboration with the University of Twente, to get participants to share knowledge and experiences on cutting-edge research and innovations using geospatial information technologies to address critical issues on sustainable urban and rural development, Rwanyiziri said.