From the archives: Small farmers, big data in Africa

Vital Signs researchers record data onto a tablet in Tanzania

Vital Signs researchers record data onto a tablet in Tanzania. (© Benjamin Drummond)

For effective conservation, you have to go where the people are.

When Conservation International’s Sandy Andelman led the creation of Vital Signs, a tool that collects data on how ecosystems support agriculture in Africa, she thought an online platform would be the best way to share data with government leaders and farmers. She soon realized that that wasn’t what people wanted — or needed.

“In many of the African countries where we’re working, the main — or even the only — way people access the Internet is through their cell phones,” Andelman said. “Cell data access is good pretty much everywhere … Internet access is touch and go.”

As part of our month-long spotlight on conservation issues in Africa, we’re re-sharing an article from February highlighting an innovative effort that uses cutting-edge science to better understand nature’s value across the continent.

Read the full interview.

Molly Bergen is the senior managing editor of Human Nature.

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