The Development of the South African National Land Cover Mapping Program: Progress and Challenges


Remote Sensing

Full Paper Review



Julie Katherine Verhulp, Chief Directorate: National Geospatial Information, South Africa,
Michelle Denner, ZA, Chief Directorate: National Geospatial Information, South Africa


The Chief Directorate: National Geo-spatial Information (CD: NGI) as South Africa’s National Mapping organisation is mandated, amongst others, to provide and maintain national mapping coverage of the Republic. As an extension to its current product offering, it has recently embarked on a program of national land cover mapping. The demand for land cover mapping that is current, meets requirements and provides for an accurate reflection of the landscape, is reaching unparalleled proportions within the South African user community.

In order to address this need, the CD: NGI used a phased-in approach in its attempt to achieve national coverage. The paper will provide an overview of the various phases of development of the national land cover mapping program. The first phase was a pilot project over a number of small areas, where the process included both a desktop and independent field verification exercise. The second phase was to move to a more programmatic strategy whereby the entire province is mapped. Refinements of the pilot projects were introduced to improve on the quality of the dataset. A brief description of the problems experienced will be discussed. The paper will further reflect on the development of an accurate field dataset that can provide a basis for an accuracy assessment of the products. Constant refinement of the methodology is underway.

The need for automated classification, against the very labour intensive manual methods currently being used, is driving the process within the CD: NGI to revisit such methodologies and to further develop capacity within the industry to better serve the user community. The conclusion will reflect on the lack of cohesion and disparate programs amongst the major role players in the South African public sector, coupled with factors such as financial constraints, capacity of the industry and quality of underlying data that are impeding significant progress in this field.

View This Paper