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Regional Mapping Organisation launches Space Technology Mentorship in Rwanda

7 Min Read

The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) has launched the Kuza mentorship program for students in the field of geospatial and space science at the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology.

The program which was kicked off on June 1, 2022 in Kigali, intends to empower future space scientists and geomatics engineers that are being trained by the University of Rwanda to have the skills that are needed by the market.

“We have experts from our side that we are pairing with the students to mentor them into careers that this industry provides. We have also identified different programs through which we can connect them so that these experts can guide the students,” said Dr. Emmanuel Nkurunziza, Director General, RCMRD.

Beyond the mentorship program where experts and students are connected, the Center (RCMRD) has also a GeoHub program, where ideas are nurtured within the geospatial and space science field. “If you get an idea, then we develop it, we help the idea initiator shape it into a possible business or a possible solution or tool that can be used on the field,” explains Nkurunziza.

“We also have a small grass program, every year we advertise people to make applications, then we give grants of up to 30 thousand dollars to each individual who has an idea in the field of agriculture and food security, water and water related disasters, land use, land cover, and then disaster management. So, if you have an idea that can really solve a problem in society, you propose it, then we give you this fund,” he adds.

Prof. Gaspard Rwanyiziri, Director of Center for GIS and Remote Sensing, the partnership between university of Rwanda and RCMRD brings benefits to students in both tools and new developed knowledge in the field of geospatial and space science.

“Our students are benefiting from new developed technological tools and services brought under the patronage of RCMRD. This is an opportunity for them to increase their skills and knowledge”.

Remy Ninsiima, a Level 3 student in the field of geography and environmental planning at University of Rwanda, said: “We are well privileged to have this workshop that is helping us to learn more about remote sensing and GIS as a tool.

We face issues like landslides and flooding mostly in the northern region of our, we do believe that this training will help us to do monitoring to discover high risk zones that are most exposed to landslides, as we know that such disasters affect livelihood among communities”.

Call for Space Technology Action:
Rwanda is among the 20 members of RCMRD whose mission is to strengthen the member States and our stakeholder’s Capacity through Generation, Application and Dissemination of Geo-information and Allied Technologies for sustainable development.

During the opening of the 3-day RCMRD Rwanda Open Day on May 30, in Kigali, it was revealed that in the past three years, the Centre and the aforementioned partners has co-developed and implemented the Rwanda Crop Monitor, the Rwanda Space Challenge, and Land Use Decision Support System among others.

However, with a huge and unexploited geospatial data (geographic and mapping) and earth observations that can be used in different sectors in Rwanda, Nkurunziza said that Rwanda has a long way to go thus the need to create awareness on space technology and data usage so as not to miss out on the fourth industrial revolution (which is tech driven).

For instance, Nkurunziza said Rwanda can bank on creating a new generation of young innovators in spatial data and technology to cut down on costs of monitoring geographic and environmental activities which need alot of resources if done manually.

“All we need is to use the abundance of technology in this era that we are not using. for example, it only takes hours to compute many satellite images today unlike decades ago when we spent month to get a single imagine,” Nkurunziza stated.

Rwanda Space Agency (RSA) Chief Executive Officer, Colonel Francis Ngabo said that the country is working with regional and international space partners to utilize available space data as the country plans to launch its own satellite.

In 2019, with the support and supervision from Tokyo University, and Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA), Japan trained Rwandan engineers sent RWASAT-1 into space.

Data from RWASAT-1 is anticipated to, provide invaluable information to among others, the agriculture sector, urban planning, disaster management.

Last year, the RSA filler a request for satellite constellations, with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) a move intended to develop the country’s capability in satellite technology and sit a satellite among the 7,941 installed at the international space

“We are currently at the stage of building capacity of space engineers and negotiations with the international space station but we are sending engineers to train in different space technology so as to build our own foundation,” Ngabo said.

Dr. Octave Semwaga is the Director General for Agriculture Modernisation in the Ministry of Agriculture said that the RCMRD Open Day will be an opportunity for the country to learn from other experiences so as to build sectors which are climate resilient and adaptive in order to attain the country’s development agenda especially in agriculture modernisation.