West Africa Land Classification and Methodologies Conference, 4 - 8 June 2018


SERVIR-West Africa will be hosting an invitational Land Classification and Methodologies conference, under the auspices of the Permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), from 4 – 8 June, 2018.  Details on the scope and objectives of this four-day conference are found below, with more information to follow.


Rapid rates of landscape degradation driven by climate variability, rapid population growth, and inadequate development planning have decreased the resilience of West African populations.  Decision-makers at all levels require information on land use and land cover dynamics in order to arrive at effective decisions, whether in the context of international agreements, national and sub-national policies, or simply for household livelihoods and activities.  These issues were emphasized by stakeholders during all of the stakeholder consultations conducted by SERVIR-West Africa in the region.

Mapping land use and land cover is not new to the region.   Over the years, a variety of classification systems and methodologies have been employed.  The rapid growth in the availability of high resolution multi-spectral satellite imagery and advances in computation capacity.   This growth in science and technology has not necessarily been matched by a clear understanding of the decision-making context in which the science may be applied.  Many LU/LC efforts have not been designed and deployed with the input of decision-makers at the outset.  Scientists and the technical community who analyze land use and land cover bemoan the lack of understanding and the uptake of their products.

Multiple classification systems are being applied throughout West Africa for a variety of different needs and at different scales of resolution.  These systems often are not interoperable nor consistent across national boundaries.  In spite of regularly articulated demand, no single classification system has been adopted across West Africa and is not likely to happen soon, and a means for cross-referencing these systems has not been developed.  This has resulted in the inability to aggregate data across the region for national and regional reporting.  It has also resulted in difficulties of increasing the scale to address local needs.

National and regional actors are called upon to address various land cover/land use questions and thus require access to a broad range of data while they are facing resource constraints on data and analytical capabilities.  Decision-makers demand timely information at the levels of accuracy and precision, and in an accessible format necessary to inform the decisions they must make.

The various methodologies that have been applied in land cover/land use mapping and the results of these methodologies also vary considerably in terms of their conclusions and confidence.  Technical personnel and decision-makers are often unaware of these differences and are making potentially ill-informed decisions based upon these various methodologies.

SERVIR-West Africa seeks to build upon existing capabilities and approaches rather than introduce new and potentially replicative or conflicting approaches in the design of land use and land cover information services.

SERVIR-West Africa further seeks to improve access, understanding, and use of geospatial information for effective decision-making. This collaborative demand-driven approach will be enhanced by bringing together scientists and decision-makers to address the choice and interoperability of LU/LC products across West Africa.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS) will benefit from a characterization of LU/LC methodologies and classification systems as they relate to information requirements of local, national, regional and international decision-makers.  This characterization will feed into a future dialogue on harmonization of methodologies and classification systems at a regional level in order to improve national reporting requirements for international agreements as well as national and regional planning.


Researchers from West Africa, US and European countries under the auspices of an internationally recognized professional organization (e.g., AfriGEOSS, ISPRS and/or the IGU), under the auspices of CILSS and ECOWAS will attend the four-day conference. The objectives are:

  • Review of Land Cover Maps/Data in the region; assess the potentials and limitations and discuss future improvements in terms of algorithms, mapping efforts and decision support systems.
  • Showcase case study applications of LU/LC classification systems and methodologies to a set of questions that address existing decisions made at regional, national, sub-national levels, and to address international agreements.
  • Assess the current classification systems applied in the region and generate a comparison of classification schema across decision contexts, scales of resolution, and use cases.
  • Needs assessments of the region with regards to land cover maps as they move forward in providing LU/LC services.
  • Map, through open discussion, the way forward for ECOWAS and CILSS to achieve harmonization of Land Cover mapping systems and methods, given decision-maker needs (as opposed to the selection of one uniform classification system or methodology).


  • Guide to classification schema and methodologies for local, national and regional decision-making.
  • Cross-comparison of various LU/LC classification schema as applied in West Africa and linked to decision contexts, showing the cross-relationships among classification systems.
  • Comparison of various classification methodologies, particularly automated versus visual methodologies, their respective levels of confidence and how these may inform each other.
  • A published paper or report summarizing the findings of the conference, in both English and French.
  • A set of conclusions for SERVIR-West Africa in the appropriate classification systems and methodologies for service development that is consistent with regional requirements and specifications.
  • As a second phase, following the conference, initiate a high-level discussion through ECOWAS, on an appropriate harmonized LU/LC classification scheme that addresses the needs of ECOWAS member states.


To Be Announced


To Be Announced


To Be Announced