13 February 2024, Vientiane, Lao PDR - On 11-15 December 2023 the United Nations Satellite Centre (UNOSAT) delivered a five-day training programme, under the ongoing project, “Strengthening Capacities in the Use of Geospatial Information for Improved Resilience in Asia-Pacific and Africa" funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). 

In the wake of increasing vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change impacts, the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) has taken a proactive approach to disaster risk management (DRM). A recent advanced technical training, focusing on the utilization of geospatial technologies, has equipped professionals from various ministries with the tools needed to manage risks associated with floods, tropical depressions, landslides, and other hydrometeorological events. 

Lao PDR, situated in a region prone to the exacerbating effects of climate change, anticipates a significant increase in drought severity in its southern regions. Projections indicate a rise in precipitation by 10 to 30 per cent, coupled with a temperature increase of 1 to 2 degrees. This scenario heightens the likelihood of more frequent flooding and rainfall-triggered landslides. 

Recognizing the importance of location-bound risk understanding, the training programme emphasized the significance of geospatial technologies, particularly Earth observation (EO). EO stands as a crucial tool for DRM, aiding in both risk reduction and response. Through continuous observation of the Earth's surface, professionals can gain valuable insights into hazard dynamics, development patterns, and factors driving risks such as climate change and environmental degradation. 

The training programme's first session focused on emergency response support analysis using satellite imagery. Subsequent sessions delved into advanced remote sensing techniques, covering topics such as digital image classification, change detection, and the application of EO-derived information for enhanced decision-making in disaster risk management. 

Upon the successful completion of the rigorous technical training, participants became proficient in a multifaceted skill set essential for adept engagement in disaster risk management through the application of remote sensing technologies. Mastery began with the ability to articulate the foundational principles of remote sensing, attaining a nuanced comprehension of its pivotal role in mitigating disaster risks. Participants gained proficiency in the identification and retrieval of remote sensing-derived datasets, harnessing the power of web-based platforms to acquire critical spatial information. Moreover, the training instilled expertise in the utilization of remote sensing indices, facilitating nuanced disaster exposure analyses. Participants also cultivated the art of digital image classification, a key skill for precise landcover mapping and change detection from satellite imagery. The culmination of this training empowered individuals to strategically apply Earth observation-derived insights, thereby elevating decision-making processes intrinsic to effective disaster risk management strategies. 

Throughout the evaluation process, participants were actively encouraged to partake in self-assessment activities, both preceding and after the conclusion of the training. This approach was meticulously designed to furnish a holistic understanding of the training's impact and effectiveness. The data revealed a noteworthy transformation in participants' self-assessment of their knowledge and skills. Before the training, only 25% considered themselves at a moderate to high level of proficiency. However, upon the training's culmination, a significant shift occurred, with 77% of participants now confidently placing themselves at a moderate to high level. This substantial 52% increase underscored the training's role not only in imparting new knowledge but also in elevating participants' confidence and proficiency in applying acquired skills. 

In assessing the relevance of training sessions against the intended learning goals, participants provided overwhelmingly positive feedback. A majority, comprising 81% of participants, expressed satisfaction, indicating that the learning objectives were highly pertinent to the training they received. This high level of contentment signifies a robust alignment between the training's design and the participants' expectations and needs, emphasizing the training's efficacy in meeting its intended goals. 

Moreover, recommendations have been formulated to enhance the training programme. Proposed measures include the potential extension of the training duration for more comprehensive coverage, a heightened focus on hands-on coding exercises to enhance practical skills, and an expansion of the content to encompass advanced analyses, such as flood susceptibility and the creation of reports on disaster risk reduction. These proposed adjustments are currently under consideration, reflecting a commitment to continuous improvement based on participant input. 

UNOSAT remains steadfast in its commitment to empowering partners in disaster risk management (DRM) capabilities. By equipping professionals with skills ranging from remote sensing fundamentals to advanced techniques, UNOSAT not only imparts knowledge but instils confidence and proficiency in disaster risk mitigation. The positive participant feedback and ongoing considerations for programme enhancement underscore UNOSAT's dynamic approach and continuous efforts to meet the evolving needs of its partners. 

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