Please Use Spatial Analysis And Stop Asking People to Walk All Day

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The poor walk a lot. They walk every day to and from work, childcare, clinics, wells and anywhere else they need to go.
They have limited time and may be tired after working all day. Then, development practitioners ask them to walk to attend trainings, farmer demonstrations, participatory mapping, project meetings, etc.
Is it any wonder that we all struggle with meeting attendance?
Not All Distances Are the Same
As part of a CRS program in Madagascar, Daniel Andriantsimba wondered why some constituents were not showing up for a food distribution. He realized some were likely walking far more than others once he took into account terrain in hilly Madagascar.
CRS Madagascar contacted the spatial analysis company ESRI, to estimate walking times for project constituents to figure out where they could better place food distribution. ESRI estimated walking times based on steepness, streams, and walking speed in different conditions.
This process created a distance map that told CRS where were the best sites to place food distribution. New locations were based on an optimal walking distance that was no more than 5 kilometers for most participants.
Once CRS moved the distribution location based on walk times (not proximity to roads as most of us do), they recorded a 30 percent increase in participation. CRS Ethiopia used a similar analysis in the summer of 2016 for its El Nino drought response distributions also with positive result.
How to Measure Actual Walking Effort
Development practitioners usually don’t know how to conduct this type of spatial analysis because the predictive analysis method is complicated. We don’t have the time to learn the ins and outs of spatial software and not every project has the budget to have this analysis performed externally.
For this idea to be widely adopted, accurately measuring walking effort must be easy and affordable so that every project regardless of budget can access it. We need a simple web application that anyone can use to calculate actual constituent distances to different types of project activities.
Help Us Drive Demand
CRS is encouraging technology companies to make a simple web application available so that this technology can work for all development programs and we need your help.
Please share your walk effort needs so we can crowdsource where development practitioners and project constituents can benefit from shorter walk times in our programming. User demand will help convince companies of the need to build this tool.
Spatial analysis should be for everyone.
By Kathryn Clifton, PhD, ICT4D Knowledge Management and Communications Specialist, Catholic Relief Services