With new geospatial tools, mapping environmental impact is as easy as ABC


Asset Publisher

With new geospatial tools, mapping environmental impact is as easy as ABC

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
©IFAD/Ueslei Marcelino

Data is essential for organizations like IFAD. Without detailed information about the people and communities we work with, we cannot design effective solutions to the challenges they face – nor fully understand if these are working once we implement them.

However, collecting data on the ground can be costly and complicated, especially when it comes to issues as vast and complex as climate change and biodiversity.

That’s where the Adaptation, Biodiversity and Carbon Mapping Tool (ABC-Map) comes in.

Launched by the IFAD-hosted Agri-PBD Platform earlier this year, this application uses satellite data to get a holistic view of environmental impacts without requiring any ground data.

Supported by a broad coalition of Public Development Banks, the ABC-Map is enhancing our ability to protect the planet while supporting the rural people at the core of our work.

Mapping sustainable development

Using the same engine that powers Google Earth, the ABC-Map combines satellite data with global datasets on land cover and climate to create complex, colour-coded maps. Drawing on three different sets of indicators, users can create detailed maps of any geographical area:

  1. The adaptation section shows information on climate and geography, allowing us to assess climate risk and monitor the impact of climate change over time.
  2. The biodiversity section draws on indicators that show the abundance of different species and natural capital, allowing us to understand biodiversity trends and risks.
  3. The carbon section gives insight into greenhouse gas emissions, highlighting polluted areas and giving us the information we need to protect them.

At the start of a project, we can use these maps to understand what needs to be done where – and give us clues on the potential impact of project activities. Then, as projects are implemented, we can quickly assess and analyse the environmental impact of our investments in rural areas, as well as of national agricultural policies.

Enhancing rural development

Although the ABC-Map was only launched in 2024, IFAD started using it in a number of projects long before it became available to the public. As a result, we’ve already had a chance to integrate its insights into our work, and see its benefits at every stage – from project planning to impact assessment.

In Burkina Faso, we used the ABC-Map to assess the impacts of the 10-year Neer-tamba Project, of which sustainable land development was a key component. From 2019 on, we used the tool to make sure that our intervention was working as intended. By the time the project ended in 2023, we had the data confirming that natural capital and biodiversity had both increased.

In Tajikistan, meanwhile, we used the ABC-Map to design the Community-based Agricultural Support Project Plus (CASP+), which aims to increase the resilience of ecosystems while boosting rural livelihoods. By mapping land use across the project region, we identified the most critical areas in which to focus our interventions, which will run until 2030.

A new perspective on the planet

The ABC-Map is already changing the way IFAD assesses and plans sustainable development. As the tool grows and matures, its utility will be enhanced with the addition of new platform capabilities and indicators.

Best of all, ABC-MAP is an open-access tool, meaning that it is free and available to use for all. Try it out – and see for yourself how much information geospatial technology like the ABC-Map puts at our fingertips.

A recorded demonstration session can be viewed at this link.