About Terraso

Terraso is a set of software services and applications curated by Tech Matters for community leaders: landowners, agribusiness, small-holder farmers, pastoralists, indigenous people, local government, and investors. Terraso provides these actors with software, data tools, and the access to financial resources they need to bring their stakeholders together, overcoming conflicting agendas, and finding common ground in a sustainable vision for their ecosystem. Terraso has been created as part of the 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People Initiative.

Tech Matters is a Silicon Valley based nonprofit organization with a mission to bring the benefits of technology to all of humanity. We work hand-in-hand with social change visionaries to build tech solutions needed for real systems change, to create large-scale, positive impact. Tech Matters is staffed by tech experts with a passion for social justice and a commitment to further positive social change.

Terraso vision

The overall 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People (1000L) initiative goal is to bring essential information, tools, and financial resources to local leaders in at least 1,000 communities with a combined population of more than 1 billion. In this context, a “landscape” is a place defined by ecosystem boundaries (a watershed, a forest) and/or political boundaries (province, state, county). It includes the full range of human and natural activities and might have a population of 10,000 people, or 10,000,000. The initiative focuses on the local leaders of these landscapes, helping them build more sustainable, climate- smart, economies for their future.

Our 1000L partners are powerful organizations with in-depth engagements with landscape initiatives around the world, but they are not as focused on software tools and data collaboration. They have come together with each other, and with Tech Matters, to make the joint investments in technology and capacity which will support all landscape-level activities, not just those done in partnership with major NGOs.

As part of the 1000L initiative, Tech Matters is building Terraso, a digital landscape platform to engage local community leaders representing landowners, agribusiness, small-holder farmers, pastoralists, indigenous people, local government, and investors. Terraso will provide the software and data tools they need to bring their stakeholders together, overcome conflicting agendas, and find common ground in a sustainable vision for their ecosystem and the community determination to make critical changes.

Terraso is an ambitious technology project with an expected lifetime of more than a decade. Our goal is not just to build software and deliver data, but to profoundly change behavior across a large segment of the planet. Our plan is not to compel action, or wag our finger at negative activities, but instead to use the power of these tools to help the leaders in these landscapes to advance their shared social, environmental, and economic goals. We believe that the investment of a few tens of millions of dollars over the coming decade in better data, better learning, and better tools will leverage the effective investment of many billions of dollars of other people’s money. Unlike most climate approaches, we are focused on helping local leaders make the decisions that will shape the places they live for coming decades.

Terraso is fully aligned with Tech Matters’ mission to identify and implement open source technology platforms which can help thousands of communities improve their welfare and their environment, creating a sustainable future. By nurturing data-driven decision making, building local capacity, and enabling funding, Terraso can promote systems level change around the world.

Terraso platform

The Terraso digital platform is a central component of the 1000 Landscapes (1000L) initiative. We have spent more than a year interviewing local landscape leaders around the world, and have heard loud and clear how better information, tools, and financing could enable the 1000L vision of locally-led change. We use the standard Silicon Valley lean/agile/human-centered-design approaches, and this discovery phase has been an essential first step. We heard five themes from these local leaders:

A man standing in front of a banana tree looking at a tablet he is holding in his hand and smiling.
  • build it to work with our technology and our capabilities;
  • ensure we gather, organize, and control the data about our place;
  • deliver maps we can use;
  • help us communicate with our community and the world;
  • help us get the money we need.

Underlying each of these themes are dozens of user stories about how technology can facilitate the goals of 1000L to help these communities. They need data about their ecosystems, and they need it delivered in an accessible form (not complex GIS software). They need help developing scientifically sound action plans which can gain consensus and political support. They need help taking their priority actions and turning them into investable projects and businesses. They need communications tools to engage with their communities about sentiment, weather, pests, climate-smart agriculture, as well as telling the outside world about their place (for tourism), their products, and why they are worthy of investment. They need the platform to work well with the technology they actually have, which is generally Android smartphones with lousy and/or expensive data connections.

This is why Terraso will be delivered as a software-as-a-service platform, where local landscape leaders have their own user accounts linked to a specific landscape initiative. For example, one of our early landscapes will be the Lari-Kijabe landscape in Kiambu County in Kenya (Kenya is organized into counties rather than states or provinces). The key leader coordinating the stakeholders is a longtime Kenyan landscape leader with experience inside both NGOs and government. When he logs into Terraso online, he will automatically be placed in the Lari instance of Terraso, which has extensive data about the county, both collected by the community and organizations in the landscape, as well as other data (such as GIS knowledge maps) of the county. He will have an extensive array of tools he can use, and data he can access, but the focus will be on the priority projects and activities he has chosen. He might focus on finding funding for ecosystems services, or gaining consensus for a five-year local land use plan which needs to be delivered to the Kenyan national government in the next four months. Our goal is that Terraso is an indispensable part of helping this landscape leader and his community reach their social, economic, and environmental goals over many years.

Terraso is the technology platform powering the 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People initiative.

Key funding from

Ikea Foundation
Patrick J McGovern Foundation
Schmidt Futures
Cisco Foundation
Hitz Foundation
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