About the Author: Dr. Fernando Echavarria is a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) Office of Space and Advanced Technology, and Alison Stone is an intern in OES.
One year after President Obama's commitment in Cairo to renew engagement between the United States and Muslim-majority countries, U.S. and Egyptian scientists and representatives met in Cairo June 14-17 for a three-day workshop on “Space Technology and Geoinformation for Sustainable Development.” More than 75 U.S. and Egyptian scientists from universities, government agencies and the private sector examined the role that remote sensing and other space technologies can play in helping Egypt address multiple environmental issues, including climate change. Notably, they discussed applications of remote sensing for water resources management, agriculture, urbanization, archeological research, space weather and microsatellites. The workshop resulted in a list of about 30 priorities for cooperation between scientists in the United States and Egypt for such applications.
One priority is the use of U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to improve the efficiency of agricultural water use. This is known as precision agriculture, where a GPS device is attached to any part of a tractor to improve the application of fertilizer, insecticides and any other input, including water, to an agricultural field. In a population such as Egypt's, in which the country's 80 million-plus people can only cultivate the less than three percent of the country's land that lies along a narrow buffer on both sides of the Nile Valley and the Nile Delta, improving the efficiency of water use for agriculture becomes critical. And it will become increasingly important as the climate changes.
Egypt is a newcomer to the space enterprise, having sent its first satellite into orbit in 2007. NARSS Chairman Ayman El-Dessouky Ibrahim participated in the workshop and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden addressed the workshop and answered questions. “While the majority of NASA's cooperation is accomplished with space-faring nations,” Bolden told a Cairo University audience, “other nations are increasingly relying on the unique capabilities of space for day-to-day activities such as urban planning, resource management, communications, weather forecasting, navigation and disaster management.”
The workshop was organized and funded through the U.S.-Egypt Joint Science and Technology Fund, which is a public-private partnership that includes the Department of State's OES Bureau, the Egyptian National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Association of American Geographers (AAG), and Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). Other participating U.S. government officials represented NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center; NOAA'ss National Weather Service; NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; and USAID-Cyprus.