Yemeni government officials have been collaborating with the International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri) on the online mapping tool Yemen Spatial. Throughout the conflict, officials have continued to work with Ifpri to implement the food security plan drawn up between the Yemeni government and Ifpri.
“We are still very much in touch with Yemen, and really, hats off to them, that despite the conflict they’re living through day in and day out, our counterparts there are still very active in their own fields. They’re still working, and there’s a lot of collaboration and exchange of reports between us – and they’re still using the [Yemen Spatial] tool,” said Perrihan Al-Riffai, senior research analyst at Ifpri.
“It’s a very difficult situation they’re facing, and they have been for a while – but there’s this will on their part to continue to work, and trying as much as possible, whenever they can, not to be impeded in their own work by the conflict they’re going through. They have a series of investments they’re planning to improve the nutrition security situation in Yemen,” she added.
Ifpri launched Yemen Spatial, a spin-off of its regional mapping tool Arab Spatial, in July last year, along with spatials for Iraq and Palestine. It developed the Yemeni version in partnership with Yemen’s Ministry of Planning and International Co-operation, the CGIAR research programme on Policies, Institutions, and Markets, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the German international development organisation Giz.
Regional information revolution
Launched in 2013, Arab Spatial is aimed at helping policy-makers and researchers across the Middle East access and process data on food security issues, and so improving interventions in the region. The tool brings together macroeconomic data, food security indicators, and details on certain projects in the region, with new data sets regularly being added.
“The whole information revolution has been happening – albeit slightly later, and maybe going slightly slower than elsewhere. But it is happening, and I hope people realise there is potential in Arab Spatial to have all this information, and in showing it in certain ways,” said Al-Riffai.
Earlier this year Ifpri launched Arab Spatial 3.0, and offered the tool in Arabic for the first time since its launch. The updated application is also designed to be much more usable with slower internet connections, solving one of the biggest issues users raised with the tool.
“We decided that we needed to address this – if people aren’t loading apps, they aren’t using them. We are now using open-source technology, and our software developers have been able to significantly improve the speed Arab Spatial works, even in slow-internet countries,” explained Al-Riffai.
Arab Spatial now also includes a blog, covering food security issues and adding analysis to the raw maps and data of the tool itself. Al-Riffai said the aim was to include alternative points of view on food and nutrition security, and encourage information sharing across the region.
The next major feature planned for Arab Spatial will be the addition of data on macroeconomic policies implemented across the Middle East, which Ifpri hopes to implement by the end of 2015. According to Al-Riffai, getting accurate and up-to-date information on government policies in force across the region can be extremely difficult, and this upgrade will make the data much more accessible.