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

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.

Led by Earth Observation company, Pixalytics Ltd, the Earth Observation for Sustainable Aggregate Supply (EO4SAS) project will support the Government of Kenya in its efforts to develop strategies to improve the sustainable management of sand extraction, transportation, and related supply chains.

EO4SAS is one of ten recently announced International Partnership Programmes (IPP) projects being grant-funded through the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP), part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Pixalytics Ltd will be working with the Government of Kenya alongside Kenyan partners Nairobi Design Institute and NIRAS Africa, together with UK partners Satellite Applications Catapult, 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.

Working alongside local stakeholders and employing satellite data, machine-learning technology and in-country knowledge, the EO4SAS team will create a better understanding of the current extraction sites, scale, transportation routes for sand and their environmental impacts.

This is a short-term ‘Discovery project’, running until March 2021, to look at the implementation of strategies for the sustainable management of this resource.

It is hoped the proposed solution will go on to receive further funding, consequently improving 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.