Geospatial technology & world banking standards for resettlement

Geospatial technology & world banking standards for resettlement


There is an increased demand for projects, particularly those in Africa, to adhere to World Banking Standards to ensure stability between the client and the local community. Geospatial technology is the ideal tool, which can help apply the standards and at the same time create a successful data capture instrument while ensuring the welfare of the local communities

As more and more resources are uncovered and both private and government projects are put in place, the natural environment is disturbed and the local communities are being uprooted and resettled. Often the land required for large scale agriculture, mining, renewable energy projects or harvesting of natural resources is populated by local communities who have been living there for hundreds of years. There is an increased demand for projects to adhere to World Banking Standards to ensure stability between the client and the local community.

This is of particular relevance to Africa, as it is continually growing to become the ‘resource basket’ for the rest of the world and as international mining entities grow in their exploitation of resource deposits. Projects affect space, and all aspects of a project have a spatial attribute which can transform the design or layout of a site. Thus, the need exists for a spatial solution using technology, one which can apply the World Banking Standards (IFC Standards) and can create a successful data capture instrument. Especially, a mechanism which can protect local communities using the World Banking Standards (IFC Standards) as a guideline.

Android based systems have successfully been used on several projects in Africa, some of which include Addax Bioenergy – Sierra Leone; Syrah – Mozambique and LHDA Katsi Dam Phase 2 – Lesotho. The systems have enabled companies to implement an Environmental & Social Management Plan (ESMP) allowing planning, monitoring and assessment of the current environmental status and social situations on a project. The android tablets in each case were used to gather information in the field through various surveys. When the data was compiled, statistics and reports could be constructed from reliable information.

Current Standards & Trends

The current obligation for social resettlement is wide spread across Africa as development continues to grow. Both Eastern and Western African markets concentrate on developing mineral deposits with local government. It has been observed that environmental procedures and compliance to IFC standards has also grown. Environmental management plans (EMP) have been soundly implemented using the appropriate procedures and policies. It is well documented that the environmental regulations have become firmly established over the past 15 years for development projects in Africa. The IFC social standards allow for variability of a project site and allow the client to approach the social side of a project with dynamic solutions, as each site is entirely unique, but still hold the client to fulfilling the essential needs of a local community and protect communities from being taken advantage of.

Tablets, Social Monitoring

Tablet based systems, can be used as a monitoring tool through the implementation of a baseline survey, health survey, Farmer Development Programme (FDP), Asset Compensation Plan (ACP), even for land lease and boundary demarcation.

Currently, tablet based systems have enabled projects to reduce the use of paper which has removed the danger of losing paper based surveys and valuable data. Tablets can be programmed with the necessary questions and ‘skip logic’ can be used to save time during field surveys and interviews of Project Affected People (PAP). The system also allows for a geo-tagged image to be taken, which is linked to the data from a baseline survey of all PAP. The data allows planners and social practitioners to see trends and patterns for the local communities and plan accordingly.

Current trends, however, are still far from a complete system. Currently, data is collected from the field and uploaded into a database, statistics are then run and results are presented for managers. Rio Tinto and Boréalis are two entities in the mining industry that have developed data capture systems that allow for the flow of data (captured in the field) into a report based system which can be live (up to date information). Data is collected in the field, uploaded to a cloud server and a self generated report (which is constructed before the project starts) is populated with the updated information and results can be downloaded for mangers to review at anytime. This mechanism of transferring data into a fast reliable report can allow projects to get a head start on foreseeable social dilemmas and avoid community instability and ultimately social conflict that can hinder the development of a project. Below is an image of spatial data collected in the field for an agricultural project. The spatial information refers to crops and trees which were planned to be removed and for which the community members were compensated for. The spatial data allows implementing agents to manage the project more effectively and protect both the project and PAP against various challenges such as financial fraud.

Geospatial technology & world banking standards for resettlement

Figure: Example of spatial data used for compensation. The data was collected for compensation payments to community members as the pivot would be cleared

The Technology

There are two devices which one can implement on these projects, Apple or Android devices. The technology in this case has been used on Android tablets. Android software is simple to program and there is a lot of freeware available (ODK and Ourx Maps) to avoid companies paying excessive prices. The two mentioned applications allow for data capture and field navigation, creating reliable data. ODK can also be programmed to capture points, tracks or polygon areas. The data can be downloaded through wireless download, via a mobile internet connection onto a ‘cloud’, or manually through a cable. Once the data has been downloaded, it is simply translated into a database where statistics and reporting can be conducted. In a case where power may be scarce, mobile solar panels have been used to charge tablets. An example of this was used on the Lesotho Highlands Katsi Dam Phase 2 project, where the landscape is rugged and often staff had to stay in villages over night, solar panels were used to charge the tablets while in the field.

It is important to note that reliable information is the key to a successful plan for collaboration with local communities. Because all developments have a spatial effect on a site, both environmental and social parameters need to be well understood and the data needs to be collected and used in the planning of a project. Tablet based systems act as a tool for project implementers and consultants to help in the process of adhering to social and environmental standards setup by the IFC and/or local governments.

The Future of Resettlement

Currently, many of the IFC standards are under review, and are being updated as policies and procedures to manage resettlement begin to be better understood. It must be recognised that social factors of projects are highly dynamic and there is no single solution to resettlement. It has been seen that a social department or unit, setup with the correct tools and information as well as proficient staff, can successfully implement a resettlement project. A successful resettlement project is one whereby the PAP are complacent with the results of the resettlement phase of a project, and can often be seen by increase in economic development in villages, better health and sanitation and an increase in education levels. This will in time increase the Human Development Index of the affected area.

Tablet systems are currently addressing many data capture problems that projects have experienced for decades, and is doing so with great success. Android hardware has allowed for the implementation of social surveys to be cost effective and simple to use for local staff to be trained and put into practice. The industry is in need of a fully streamlined solution, from field to report. Once these systems have been developed and adhere to IFC and local legislation requirements, project planners will successfully be able to overcome the spatial parameters (sites of cultural value or livelihoods depend on e.g. woodlands) which sensitive local communities rely on. The tablet based system being used today bridges the communication gaps between communities and developing agents. When technology is constantly advancing, why not advance social management systems accordingly to stay at the cutting edge?

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