30 November 2023, Thimphu, Bhutan - On 23-27 October 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).

While the wealthiest nations consistently fail to meet emission reduction targets, Bhutan a small Himalayan Kingdom with a population of fewer than one million, has achieved the distinction of being one of the only three countries globally to attain carbon negativity. This accomplishment is attributed to the nation's lush forests, which absorb more carbon dioxide than the country emits. Remarkably, Bhutan is now among the 16 other Least Developed Countries that have successfully launched the key climate adaptation plan in September 2023. 

However, positioned to endure some of the most severe consequences of climate change, Bhutan serves as a case study for the environmental justice dilemmas that will emerge as the world confronts the challenges posed by climate change. 

Over the past two years of its project implementation in Bhutan, UNOSAT has actively bolstered the National Land Commission Secretariat's (NLCS) capabilities in managing geospatial information technology for sustainable land management. Notably, two technical training sessions on Web-Based Mapping Technology and UAV data collection and processing have been conducted. The overarching objective is to fortify the capacities of target agencies in utilizing Geospatial Information Technologies (GIT) for enduring, positive transformations, reducing reliance on external resources and optimizing local resources, encompassing people, skills, technologies, and institutions. 

Within a brief period of establishing our presence in the country, a discernible advancement in learning and adapting to modern technology has become evident. The notion that technological support can enhance efficiency and accuracy in achieving anticipated results imparts heightened significance to UNOSAT's endeavours. 

The recent five-day training programme aimed to familiarize participants with modern remote sensing, offering practical insights into the use of innovative tools like Google Earth Engine and ArcGIS Pro. These tools were highlighted to demonstrate how to optimize satellite data for effective land monitoring and management. By cultivating these capabilities, Bhutan will be well-equipped to tackle emerging challenges and promote sustainable development. 

The training attracted a substantial number of participants from various national ministries and diverse organizations in the country. Notable attendees included the National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS), the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM), the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MoENR), the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL), Jigme Namgyel Engineering College (JNEC), and the College of Natural Resources (CNR). 

Survey Engineer Mr Chokila from the National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS) in Bhutan emphasized, "One of the end objectives of using Geospatial sciences and technology is to enhance decision-making and planning in our respective fields. Conventionally, we only used this technology in some fields. But after this training, we understand that there is a similar online version, which non-technical people, especially decision-makers, can use, even without having any GIS knowledge." 

Mr Chokila highlighted the evolving nature of modern technology, stating, "With modern technology evolving every day, online systems have made things more accessible and approachable for everyone. These systems will really enhance and open more gateways for non-technological people who would appreciate the technology and use it better." He expressed gratitude, stating, "We also thank and appreciate the UNITAR/UNOSAT team for sending their best resource persons/trainers for this current training programme." 

The technical training marked its completion by imparting knowledge and modern technological skills to individuals through different sessions of collaborative learning approach. The training manifested a significant transformation in the participants’ self-assessment of their knowledge and skills before and after receiving the training. 46% believed they considered themselves to be at a moderate to prominent level before training, as opposed to 86% who claimed the same towards the end of the training. Our training aims not only to impart new knowledge but also aims to boost an overall increase of self-assurance and proficiency in applying the lessons learned to achieve the best results in the future. 

Moreover, participants demonstrated noteworthy performance on the post-training exam, achieving an impressive average score of 92.25. This elevated level of proficiency underscores their excellence in comprehending and applying the training materials. Regarding gender inclusiveness within our participant group, we observed a distribution where 70% were male, with the remaining 30% being female. This gender disparity is anticipated due to the cultural aspects of the country. We are actively working towards enhancing gender equality, aligning with UNOSAT's commitment to prioritizing the achievement of SDGs. This philosophy will persist across all our projects. 

In summary, the training programme provided a robust platform for participants to acquire knowledge of innovative technologies and their practical application for personal benefit. UNOSAT remains committed and enthusiastic in its mission of strengthening and extending support to Bhutan and other partner countries across different continents through its technical backstopping and training programmes. 

“The contents and the training were very relevant, and we can use some of the techniques with our job,” affirmed one of the training participants, capturing the essence of UNOSAT’s impactful initiatives. 

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