Solomon shows his map of a newly created irrigation network in Southern Ethiopia
To understand how Mapping Across Borders works for development organizations, first it is important to understand how geographic information technologies (GITs) can impact development. Simply, GITs allow for a rich understanding of the space around us. GITs do this by both collecting different pieces of information about space (called attributes), and allowing us to analyze that data, delivering a better understanding of space.
This inventory and analysis of space is of particular interest to development organizations, as it allows us to better plan, monitor and evaluate development initiatives. A few of examples of how GITs can and are being used include
- Monitoring and predicting disease spread: In the Ethiopian context, the spread of disease is especially relevant as cholera is on the rise in Addis Ababa and throughout the country. In this case, GIS could be a tool to help health workers mobilize their assets more effectively, and scientifically predict and plan for where the disease will spread.
- Understanding livestock patterns: For livestock initiatives, large scale Tsetse fly eradication programs are already underway in an attempt to limit the lethal spread of trypansomiasis among cattle. In this case, using GIS, scientists are able to see where the Tsetse flies are affecting cattle at the highest rates and also to understand the environmental factors that provide ripe breeding grounds for the Tsetse fly.
- Visualizing the effects of pollutants in water sources: In the case of pollutants in the water system, there are numerous examples of cases where, due to improper management of farming chemicals in riparian zones, entire communities have become sick, causing death in some instances.
- Improving farming techniques: In Ethiopia, nearly 85% of the population lives in rural farming communities. The use of GIS can show not only the effects of improper farming techniques, but also delineate the exact zones where chemicals can be used safely for entire communities in mere moments.
- Monitoring and Evaluation: The use of “before and after” maps are powerful and simple visual tools that show the impact of a particular intervention. For example, the prevalence and reduction of Tsetse flies before and after the laying of traps clearly demonstrates the value of this particular action in a way that is meaningful for communities and donors alike. This has the potential to change behaviors at the community level and to direct resources where they are most effective and efficient
For organizations that are new to mapping, getting started with GITs can be daunting. The software used to complete mapping projects can be difficult to use and even with good training, applying GITs in the field can be difficult.
What mapping Across Borders can offer to organizations who are interested in starting to use GITs is that it can not only provide a wealth of information which carries lessons well beyond the classroom, but also connect field staff with experts of GITs who can solve issues as they arise. Mapping Across Borders is at its core a social network, dedicated to brining the opportunity for organizations to be able to host a volunteer or intern with out any cost.