Using space technology to map impact in Niger

The PMERSA project aimed to strengthen food security in the Maradi region of Niger by sustainably increasing agricultural output and productivity through the mobilisation of surface and ground water resources. Funded by the African Development Bank and in partnership with Blackshore, we mapped the impact of the project using innovative space technology and gamification techniques.

Above: BlackShore's crowdsourcing platform Cerberus, in which a crowd of players map wells, water-related improvements such as dams and dykes, fresh surface water, vivid agriculture and roads.







Data collection

The challenge

The PMERSA project was implemented in rural areas and small villages of the Maradi region, with project support including the instalment of new wells, agricultural drilling, dams and so on. Given the rural and localised nature of the project, the traditional method of mapping impact by conducting field-based interviews would have been highly resource-intensive and logistically challenging. On top of this, the security situation in the country made it impossible to cover the entire project area using field surveys.  

The solution

Years after its completion, earth observation satellites are a great tool to start visualising and measuring the impact of the PMERSA project. Using Blackshore’s crowdsourcing platform Cerberus, a trained crowd consisting of thousands of players were given access to the game via mobile devices and windows computers. While they play, the players collect information on indicators of human prosperity in the areas supported by the PMERSA project. Among other things, they mapped healthy and diverse agriculture and the functioning of wells and commerce, and from this we were able to get a sense of the state of the region today. By combining these with historical observations (pre PMERSA) and local surveys carried out by Akvo, a story emerged.

Above: Image showing improvements in the land as a result of the PMERSA project. Vivid Agriculture is one of the project's key indicators. 

The impact

This project has been truly innovative in mapping impact by combining the crowdsourcing approach with local surveys, and has provided evidence that the PMERSA project has been a great success. The land has been improved, agriculture is more diverse, and there are many more buildings, as evidence of commerce. The approach applied here could serve as a model for future interventions and impact mapping exercises, especially in remote or rural areas.