John Duncan

I’m a geographer and spatial data scientist. I conduct research on, and develop open-source GIS and geospatial technologies for, monitoring environmental resources and analysing human-environment interactions.


An open-source geospatial workflow to map diverse landscapes in Pacific Island Countries
John Duncan, Ahi Saipaia

In Pacific Island Countries, the environmental resources that support livelihoods are distributed across landscapes in a mix of spatial patterns. Capturing the spatial detail of landscape use is important to inform landscape management that is sensitive to these livelihood dependencies. Using information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) and agile software development processes, a workflow was developed that comprises open-source geospatial software to map and monitor agricultural landscapes. This workflow was co-developed with the Vava’u branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forests, and Fisheries (MAFF) of the Government of Tonga.

The workflow consists of mobile GIS to map farms, web-applications to synchronise and store data, and spatial dashboards for data visualisation and analysis. Mobile geospatial data collection uses QField for intra-farm mapping of cropping practices and digital forms to record farm management attributes. A web application has been developed using Express and Python to support data syncing, automatically generating datasets for reporting on cropping practices and landscape conditions, and for secure data storage. A spatial dashboard, built using Shiny and Leaflet, allows non-GIS experts to easily query and visualise landscape data collected in the field and to use this data in landscape decision making.

This workflow has been used by MAFF for an array of data collection and mapping campaigns. Example uses include: mapping the location of vanilla plantations under sub-optimal management condition; identifying where land was under-utilised or left fallow by farmer groups to spatially target fuel and cash resources to increase land under cultivation; and annual crop monitoring to generate island-wide coverage of intra-farm cropping practices to serve as baseline data to track agricultural change through time.

This talk will discuss the software development process including: the needs assessment to identify and prioritise unmet needs for geospatial data and applications; requirements identification and analysis using use case modelling and rapid prototype development and testing; and refinement and deployment of the workflow for agricultural landscape monitoring on the island group of Vava’u. This talk will also elaborate on the implementations of the workflow, highlight lessons learnt through the development process, and highlight areas for future work and expansion.

Use Cases and Applications