Landscape leaders in Africa, Asia, and Latin America informed the design, development
May 11, 2023 – Tech Matters, a tech-for-good nonprofit organization focused on bringing the power of tech to social change leaders, today announced the launch of Terraso™, an open source platform designed to provide community leaders with software tools to address the effects of climate change and sustainability at the local level. Launched at the Kenyan Landscapes Coalition meeting at Lake Naivasha, Kenya, Terraso is the community-centered tech resource created as an integral part of 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People, a global collaboration convened by EcoAgriculture Partners, and co-led with Rainforest Alliance, Commonland, Conservation International, the United Nations Development Programme, and Tech Matters.
“Local communities have been dealing with the impact of the changing climate, ranging from droughts and wildfires to massive flooding, food insecurity, biodiversity loss, degrading forests, and human suffering,” said Jim Fruchterman, the CEO and founder of Tech Matters. “Yet there are far too few tech and data resources readily available to support effective decision-making at the ground-level, particularly by communities that are directly impacted. Local leaders, including landowners, indigenous peoples, farmers, local government, investors, and others, need access to the best tools and information to help their communities develop sustainable local economies in light of the climate crisis.”
Tech Matters collaborated with local landscape leaders in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to design and develop Terraso’s initial features. A common issue identified by these community leaders is the lack of data and the tools to manage it. “Too often, researchers engage local support to collect data, and then that data is extracted and used in their reports and articles − but the local community never benefits,” said Steve Francis, project director, Terraso. “One of Tech Matters’ core design principles is that data collected by communities should be owned and controlled at the local level. Our very first user interview for Terraso was with a local leader from the Lake Naivasha region who patiently explained data colonialism to us. It’s fitting that three years later we’re launching Terraso here at Lake Naivasha.”
Terraso enables local leaders to collect, store, manage, and share data, as well as to present that data through maps and visualization tools to inspire change. These storytelling tools help local communities make the case to funding sources, educate consumers regarding the value of sustainably produced products, and alert the world to the good things – or bad things – happening in the landscape.
One of the groups that helped inform Terraso’s design and is currently using Terraso is ANEI, Colombia’s largest indigenously led coffee co-op.
“Our data – the details of each community member’s planting and harvesting activity – have always been held by outsiders,” said Sebastian Izquierdo, the administrative director of ANEI. “By using Terraso mapping tools, in combination with other open source tools like KoBo – which was introduced to us by the Terraso team – we have been able to capture the necessary data to visualize and communicate our story on our own terms.”
“To scale locally led efforts to transform communities and their ecosystems, we gathered leading organizations in Integrated Landscape Management, nature conservation, and sustainable development,” said Sara Scherr, founder and CEO of EcoAgriculture Partners. “We knew it was critical to include an expert technology nonprofit like Tech Matters. Terraso allows us to rapidly deliver software tools that enhance the productivity and capacity of those ready to tackle climate change problems and build resilient and sustainable communities.”
Terraso and its resources are available at no charge in English and Spanish through Terraso.org. The creation of Terraso is supported by the Cisco Foundation, Hitz Foundation, Omidyar Network, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Rainforest Alliance (with funding from the IKEA Foundation), and Schmidt Futures.
Learn more about Terraso and hear from landscape partners involved in designing and developing Terraso at a live multi-lingual webinar on May 25 at 11:00 a.m. ET (18:00 Kenya, 16:00 UK, 10:00 a.m. Colombia). The webinar is free but advance registration is required at Terraso.org. Further information about 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People can be found at Landscapes.global.
About Tech Matters
Tech Matters (TechMatters.org) is a nonprofit organization that leverages the power of tech to support social sector innovators and advance large-scale positive social change. Tech Matters’ team includes tech experts working from eight countries with a passion for social justice and a commitment to further positive social change. As tech nerds for the social sector, Tech Matters creates common ground for systems change solutions, empowering progress on humanity’s most pressing social issues.
In addition to developing Terraso, Tech Matters developed and launched AseloTM, an open source platform co-created with child helplines around the world that enables children to get help through social media and by texting in addition to traditional phone calls, with the goal of doubling the number of young people served by a helpline’s limited number of trained counselors. The nonprofit also produces the “Tech Matters” podcast series featuring interviews with successful tech social entrepreneurs. Learn more at TechMatters.org and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.