Glenn Hyman is a geographer and an employee of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), which is supported by the WKKF. With a BA degree in international studies and a PhD in geography under his belt, he studied geomorphology and land surface processes in the Rio Pacuare river basin, in Costa Rica, as a Fullbright Foundation scholar. He has developed continental geographic databases of the crops and populations of Latin America and the Caribbean. Employing the Geographic Information System (GIS), he embarked on a process to develop spatial data infrastructures for government organizations in Costa Rica through the Central American Geographic Information Project. He actively participates in poverty mapping and geographic information network efforts of the CIAT’s Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which is the main subject of this interview.
How does the sustainable development database work?
The objective of the database, and also the forum website we created on the Internet (http://gisweb.ciat.cgiar.org/Foro/index.html), is to provide community agents and decision- and policy-makers at other levels information about the progress of local development in the context of larger areas: states, regions, countries – and the world as a whole. We collected as much data as possible from public sources of information, widely available in censuses, surveys and on the Internet. However, the beauty of this database is that a key component of the webpage allows local participants registered in the system to confirm and collect information from reliable local sources. The forum website has on-line forms that can be filled in by the local participants. These forms utomatically add data to the database. Using this new data, we can create new graphics showing the sustainable development indicators.
Where has this system already been applied?
Up until now, we have only collected the information from publicly available sources. This information was used to write a paper on sustainable development conditions in Latin American municipalities where the WK Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) has its comprehensive clusters of projects. The paper is available on the forum website. This information will be used in conjunction with the WKKF baseline survey so that local communities and others will be able to monitor and evaluate their progress in development.
What type of action can be planned with these new parameters?
The data, information and discussion from this effort provides planning tools both for local communities and for state, regional and global policy- and decision-makers. Local communities can view local issues in the larger context. A community with high infant mortality rates could find out what other communities have done to address this problem. Also they can ask national government officials to give them more resources to address the problem, arguing that their mortality rates are much higher than the national average. Moreover, the policy maker at higher levels will be better able understand local problems, which should lead to the development of policies that are better suited to problem-solving.
Published in Interaction nº 10