More African Countries Aided by SERVIR Flood Modelling

SERVIR, the satellite-based Earth monitoring system, has announced that it will expand it operations to several more countries and locations in Africa.

The operation provides imaging and mapping data, geospatial information, predictive models and science applications to help improve environmental decision-making and vital for flood forecasting and monitoring. There is also a new tool to aid in the collection of information, called the CREST (Coupled Routing and Excess Storage) Hydrologic Modelling Tool.

Africa has long suffered from natural disasters, one of the most devastating being flooding. Eastern Africa in particular is blighted by floods on a regular basis. Wide areas of Malawi are still recovering after the major floods that hit the country in January 2015   Kenya, Tanzania,and Mozambique have all suffered flooding in the first few weeks of 2016.  Flooding damages the region’s infrastructure as well as taking lives and shattering communities. Rebuilding processes and resources are often damaged by the flooding itself.


The World Bank, NASA, USAID and the Central American Commission on Environment and Development created SERVIR collaboratively, with help from the Group on Earth Observations, in order to assist.

These organisation were wholly dedicated to environmental supervision using observation and geospatial expertise, and to creating “a Global Earth Observing System of Systems” which would assist societies in need.

The SERVIR project itself serves to aid local and worldwide governments in obtaining information on various at-risk areas using technology relating to observation and geospatial techniques. Depending on the needs of the region it covers, the hub provides information on the health of locals, water management, food supplies, and natural disasters. The information the hub collects is then delivered back to ‘base’ to provide crucial data for climatologists, researchers, governments and forecasters so they can better evaluate, predict and prevent natural disasters.

The SERVIR project was first launched in 2005, with a hub located in Panama City. This focused on the Dominican Republic and Mesoamerican regions. However, as the project grew, so did the locations. SERVIR operates hubs in Thailand (serving Southeast Asia), Nepal (focusing on the Himalayan region), and now Kenya.

Each hub is programmed to respond to whatever is most important for that specific region and population, using information from satellites to detect problems. The eastern and southern African regions are most in need of flood warning, prevention and aid. Information is sent from the hub to governments, who can more accurately come up with a plan of action.

Hydrologic Modelling Tool

The flooding problem in eastern Africa has only been getting worse. To counteract the problem, SERVIR has launched a new tool to aid in the collection of information, called the CREST (Coupled Routing and Excess Storage) Hydrologic Modelling Tool. The tool examines rainfall in the area, and then cross examines this data with that of the moisture of the soil in the region, transpiration and evaporation, as well as land shape in the region – all of which affect the probability and severity of flooding. Information from the hub is vast, and can be accessed historically as well as in real time, ensuring quick responses in times of crisis.


Due to the existing success of these tools, SERVIR has now expanded to several more locations around Africa, including basins in Malawi, Namibia, Uganda, and Rwanda, in addition to Kenya.

Faith Mitheu, a spokesperson for SERVIR-E&SA, says “the beauty of these tools is that they enable non-technical end-users to gain insights into actual and potential flooding in specific basins. Water managers and other decision-makers and disaster response organizations can evaluate an evolving situation and make informed decisions to save lives, crops, and property.”

Malawi Floods, January 2015. Photo: George Ntonya/UNDP, Under Creative Commons
Malawi Floods, January 2015. Photo: George Ntonya/UNDP, Under Creative Commons