Africa Open DEAL (Open Data for Environment, Agriculture, and Land) is an initiative set up by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the African Union Commission that collected continental-scale land use data across Africa between 2018 and 2020. The project aimed to support African nations' capacities to monitor, report, and analyse environmental change through open-data geospatial technologies. The data survey classified 26% of land in Africa as forest, and also identified 7 billion additional trees outside of forests.

Great Green Wall

Begun in 2007 as a tree-planting initiative in the Sahel region, the Great Green Wall is a rural development project involving large-scale landscape restoration across Africa, with an emphasis on working towards the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on food and water security, climate resilience, and social and gender equity. The Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall (PA-GGW) extended the project to belts in North and Southern Africa, and supported the Africa Open DEAL.

The Great Green Wall is currently developing a Great Green Wall Accelerator online platform to support the coordination, monitoring, and measurement of project impact. GGW also uses a range of digital tools to communicate project progress, from interactive storymaps to a virtual reality film and app.

Open Data for Environment, Agriculture and Land

A map showing land use data collected for Africa Open DEAL. Image source: FAO [screenshot]. Retrieved 28 September 2022, from https://www.fao.org/3/cb5896en/cb5896en.pdf

The data for Africa Open DEAL was collected by African land use and GIS experts using the open-source software Collect Earth, through workshops and Mapathons (group data collection sessions), as a digital statistical sampling-based assessment of continental land use. Collect Earth facilitates analysis of high-resolution satellite imagery, enabling practitioners to assess and record land use, transition, and degradation based on classifications used in international frameworks such as the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). What do these large-scale digital tools and data collection models make visible, and what might their categorisations obscure?

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