How Geodesign can address development challenges in Africa | Guest Post

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The Fourth Session of the Regional Committee on the United Nations Global information Management for Africa (UN-GGIM: Africa) was held in Addis Ababa Ethiopia early this month. The conference revolves around the demands for new data acquisition and integration approaches of the sustainable development goals’ to improve the availability, quality, timeliness and disaggregation of data.

Mr Andre Nonguierma, Chief of the African Centre for Statistics (ACS) at the conference stated that geospatial information management was increasingly contributing to the data foundation that is required and thus, creating understanding and solving problems facing the continent. Geodesign is where the future lies in a bid to better plan our ever growing cities, enhance natural resource management and address emerging issues of climate change.


Geodesign arose thanks largely to the availability of Geographic Information System (GIS) data. This data is gathered from maps, aerial photos, satellites and surveys and stored in large databases where it can be analyzed, modelled and queried. Particularly useful is data provided by the Landsat program, a joint initiative between the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA, has been placing satellites in orbit since 1972 to collect GIS data.

Geodesign is a framework for understanding the complex relationships between human-designed settlements and the changing environment, for quickly planning ways to adapt existing communities and build new ones in a more sustainable manner. Geodesign allows designers, planners, geographers and civil engineers to find resilient solutions to 21st-century urban challenges such as population growth, decreasing resources, disaster mitigation and climate change. The essential aspect of geodesign is the process of designing (creating or modifying) some portion or aspect of the environment, be it natural or man-made, occurs within the context of geographic space.

Geodesign concepts are being implemented in fields such as wildlife research and conservation and urban planning among others.

Wildlife and Research

In Tanzania, Esri and Jane Goodall Institute are collaborating to use geospatial technologies for chimpanzee behaviour research in Gombe National park. This is supporting the development and implementation of conservation action plans and improving village land use using geodesign and community mapping across East Africa and the Congo basin.

Urban planning

Globally, geodesign is being in cities such as  San Francisco to manage population growth in a finite land. The San Francisco Planning Department engages geodesign visualization demonstration to illustrate how a 3D city model based on current zoning, building height controls, and land use could be used to explore planning options.  The 3D visualization techniques showed the city’s settlement pattern and allowed an understanding of whether that would change substantially from growth under current zoning or against possible rezoning scenarios

The Institute of conscious global change has implemented a proof of concept in Haiti a small agrarian settlement called St Raphael by creating a smart city by using the residents of St Raphael by inputting data points such as the number of floors, building dimensions, building uses and condition of the structure that can help assess the current situation.

Climate Change

With an ever changing environment, Geodesign can assist in climate change adaptation by assessing risk, identifying change, creating synergies, developing strategies, adapt to change and monitor the results.  Geodesign can help in making the most educated and informed decisions for adapting humankind to a rapidly changing environment and the world. It acknowledges the inseparable relationship between humans and nature and lets us take an active role in designing where and how we live.


Geodesign looks at the farming economy and making planning decisions based on different variables. Geo design incorporates modelling of a watershed’s soil, topography and waterways and then a farmer selects the type of farming technique to be used in the area. Through GIS areas of conservation farming, cover crops, grassed waterways and stream buffers can be drawn and the program calculates the nitrate, sediment, phosphorus, water yield, habitat quality and market return that would result from those changes to the landscape in the watershed.

Geodesign will be very important in ensuring the monitoring and implementation of the 17 SDG goals and helps in delivering decision and the real-time data generated is critical of a coherent legal and policy framework. Geospatial data, when combined with other statistical data, enables nations to create visualization tools that help inaccurate assessment and evaluation of the development impact across the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in a consistent manner such that accountability is improved.

Written by Sam Dindi

Sam is a holder of a diploma in Tourism and Wildlife management and works in the field of climate change, Tourism and Wildlife. He is also the founder of Mazingira Yetu magazine. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui is a believer in all things beautiful. A believer in spreading information in regards to environmental awareness. A believer in sharing all that is good in Kenya's natural world. A believer in speaking truth with no boundaries. Do you have a story, photo, experience or message you need to share? Send your work to or


  1. Emmanuel Uko says:

    Fantastic write up on the concept of Geodesign. It was very informative and educative.

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