Who is working on what, and where? New interactive map of livestock development activities

Dashboard maps livestock projects using open-access data, to support better coordination 

By Vanessa Meadu

Livestock project funders and implementers have basic but critical questions before they can decide on new investments or activities. Who is already working in an area? And what kind of livestock challenges are they addressing? Without this knowledge, projects risk repeating themselves, or competing. This can undermine efforts to improve food security and livelihoods in low-and middle-income countries. The Livestock Project Portal is a new tool that maps out the landscape of investments into livestock development, offering important evidence for organisations working in this space. 

The Livestock Project Portal taps into over 30 years of open data from the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), to offer valuable “real time” insights on the activity of organisations working on livestock development. Users can explore who is working on what, where, and in some cases what data these projects as generating. 

The portal is developed by SEBI-Livestock, the Centre for Supporting Evidence Based Interventions on Livestock, at the University of Edinburgh, in close collaboration with the Livestock Data for Decisions (LD4D) community. 

Explore the map of Livestock activities
Livestock Project Portal - explore the map of activities 


Data-led insights for better decisions

Funders need a good understanding of the landscape of projects to ensure that investments improve upon existing activities and build on existing knowledge and community networks. 

“The ability to map out ongoing or historic investments in a given geography or by species or subject matter hasn’t been possible, even within one funding organisation” said Shannon Mesenhowski, Program Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, speaking at the recent LD4D community meeting. 

“At the moment, local organisations and local governments must try to reconcile the lack of coordination between funders rather than focusing on collective impacts,” she explained. “A tool like this creates an opportunity for funders to connect on activities that may have similar objectives or goals,” she said. 

The dashboard has been designed with a range of users in mind, according to Louise Donnison, Senior Data Scientist at SEBI-Livestock. Donnison and her team have been engaging with LD4D community members to understand the needs of different user groups. 

These groups include:

  • Funders who wish to explore who is funding livestock projects at a global level with the aim of identifying funding gaps to allocate resources effectively.
  • Governments who wish to explore what investments are being implemented in their countries so that they can coordinate activities and resources.
  • Grantees in the start-up phase of their investment can find out who else is working on livestock projects in their target countries for advice on local contexts, or to find previous investments that may provide learnings before they start their new project.

A pipeline built on open data

The data for the tool is ingested from the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), which aims to improve the transparency of development and humanitarian resources and their results for addressing poverty and crises. Since 2008, over 1500 funding organisations have published current and historical data on resources flowing into developing countries, including financial information, location, sectors or policy areas, and results. IATI data allows anyone to track the flow of aid, humanitarian, and development resources. The dashboard is built on IATI’s powerful Datastore API, which provides access to data published according to the IATI standard. 

“We were able to write a python script that extracts livestock sector activities from the API, and creates clean data tables,” explains Alap Mehta, a data scientist at SEBI-Livestock who designed the data pipeline. These data tables are stored in a staging database, ready to be plugged in to the dashboard interface. “This data pipeline has been designed to be portable to other IATI domains such as fisheries,” says Mehta. In fact, a prototype fisheries portal is now live and ready for community feedback. 

Learning across communities

IATI offers a platform for the global aid community to exchange knowledge and insights and through topical Communities of Practice aimed at improving data use, data publishing, and strengthening standards, products, and tools.  

SEBI-Livestock are exploring opportunities for learning across the LD4D and IATI user communities. IATI’s Sarah McDuff joined the recent LD4D Community Meeting in September, and explained that LD4D members can test the quality and usability of IATI data and provide valuable insights on how data could be improved. According to McDuff, the Livestock Project Portal represents an exciting use case which shows how IATI data can lead to impacts. The SEBI-Livestock team also joined the IATI Virtual Community Exchange in November to share the portal and discuss ways to improve the dataset within existing infrastructure, like how to better use tags to curate data on cross-cutting themes.


Looking forward

We are still early in the journey, with the Livestock Project Portal in prototype mode. The SEBI-Livestock team will continue to engage with the donor community and other potential users, to refine and improve the tool so it can be used to guide decisions. We will also stay in touch with the IATI team to learn about new ways to extract insights from existing data. Together, we look forward to advancing data-driven solutions that can shape investments, and generate positive impacts for food security and livelihoods. If you have feedback, please get in touch!

Learn more:

Vanessa Meadu is the Communications and Knowledge Exchange Specialist for SEBI-Livestock, based at the University of Edinburgh. SEBI-Livestock facilitate LD4D - the Livestock Data for Decisions Community of Practice.

Header photo: S. MacMillan (ILRI) (source)

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