Digital technology has led to an unprecedented amount of data becoming available for analysis and use. Without a way to manage this data it can seem overwhelming. However, by using geographical information system (GIS) technology, data can not only be understood but can contribute valuable insights to decision making from local decisions on where to plant crops and build infrastructure to supporting larger global development trends. The Cloudburst Group leverages our expertise in data management, visualization and GIS technology to help our clients uncover trends in their data and develop innovative methods to capture valuable information in the field.

We work closely with our clients to help them understand how we can analyze their data using spatial methods to reveal patterns that provide insight into their work, how and where their money is being spent or to what extent programs are having their intended impact. As part of an evaluation of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Land Administration to Nurture Development Project (LAND) in the Afar Region of Ethiopia, Cloudburst analyzed biophysical conditions as well as explored various spatial trends in the evaluation data, such as investor disputes and types of livelihoods. This program was designed to advance the Government of Ethiopia’s goal to increase agriculture sector economic growth, support rural resiliency, and improve governance.

Cloudburst has also worked with USAID to design and implement an innovative pilot called the Mobile Applications to Secure Tenure (MAST) project in Tanzania: an easy-to-use, open-source mobile application that can capture the information needed to issue formal documentation of land rights. Documenting land rights is challenging in many developing nations because existing records are typically paper documents stored in file boxes that may be damaged overtime. Moreover, documenting land rights can be costly and challenging because communities are often remote—many a several hour drive from the nearest city—making reaching communities in a timely way difficult for many local and national governments.

The MAST application sought to address these challenges and provide both governments and communities with timely accurate information regarding their land. The Cloudburst-developed application collects geographical and spatial data which allows communities to certify their rights to use land within a village. Documenting land rights can have a positive impact on development within a community because it encourages villagers to invest in their land in ways that they may not have otherwise considered, such as planting more diverse crops and using fertilizer. A trusted-intermediary–a local youth who has been trained by the project–walks the boundaries of a parcel of land with the community member using the land. This data is then transferred to a computer application where the information is verified and, following an objections and corrections period where communities agree to the parcel boundaries, a certificate of land use rights is provided to the community member whose parcel was mapped.

Cloudburst developed MAST for an initial pilot in Tanzania to create “proof of concept.” During the pilot project, MAST mapped 3,900 land parcels in the three villages, and the District Land Office subsequently issued 1,600 land use certificates. After the completion of the pilot project, MAST was scaled up in Tanzania and adapted for use in Burkina Faso, where it further mapped approximately 2,600 land parcels in four villages over two months. The MAST technology has not only secured documented land rights for thousands, it has also helped to support other development goals, such as conflict mitigation, women’s empowerment, and poverty reduction as a result of more secure land tenure. This adaptable, innovative, and cost-effective approach has resulted in both building the capacity of local governments and benefiting communities with documentation to help them make decisions about their land.