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Nepal: Using maps as visualization tools to improve operational effectiveness

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(This blog post has been co-authored with Christine Kimes)

It has been a year since the Mapping Initiative in Nepal started by the Country Management Unit. As a result, there are 23 projects mapped in one common visualization platform. The country management unit and several country teams from different sectors and units are using maps for their own project design and analysis. Maps have been created using planned data as in the Project Document as well as “live” data as they are registered by the Project Implementation Units, activities as they look “now”. Mapping development projects and open visualization on the Internet has been particularly useful for Nepal, as the country is characterized by enormous social and geographic differences. With more than 100 ethnic groups and three ecological regions, targeted approaches are crucial for responding the diverse array of population’s needs and demands in Nepal. Below, I am presenting you few examples that show how map visualization is being used for enhancing management effectiveness.

Multi sector map

The first map that I would like to share with you (above) is an example of how having information on different project interventions at a particular administrative level enables us to see opportunities for promoting linkages between different projects and across sectors. (click here to see the map in a different window) For example, in the district of Kapilbastu, which is located in the western development region of Nepal, the World Bank is financing different interventions: Investments in irrigation schemes trough the Irrigation and Water Resource Management Project (IWRMP); the construction and rehabilitation of rural roads through the Rural Access Improvement and Decentralization Project (RAIDP); 5 grants for agricultural export diversification activities financed by the Project for Agriculture Commercialization and Trade (PACT); community investments from the Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF); and biogas plants implemented by the Community Development Carbon Finance project (Biogas CDCF).

Having this visual information enables the different task teams and project managers to see that it may be possible for the agriculture diversification activities to have applications at the irrigation schemes or with the mobilized communities. Investments in energy through the biogas plants can benefit processed food activities, and livestock community investments could benefit generation of cleaner energy through the biogas carbon project. In reality, project teams have look at the maps when visiting field visits and combining efforts to use the architecture already formed by other projects and complement activities and even join field visits to identify opportunities for collaboration on the ground.

Single sector map

The next map that I would like to share with you focuses on a single sector – Energy. The energy portfolio in Nepal has expanded rapidly over the past year, and having a single map showing the location of all interventions is quite informative. Particularly, since some of the investments are not made by agencies usually identified as “energy” agencies.  



The map shows transmission line projects implemented by the Nepal Electricity Authority: Power Development Project, Cross-Border Energy Project, and Kabeli Project. Additionally, the Bank is financing two renewable energy technologies: Bio-gas through the Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) and microhydro, through three different agencies: the AEPC, the Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF), and the Ministry of Local Development - Social Safety Nets project (SSNP).

Having these interventions mapped at the VDC level provides a much better appreciation of our engagement across the country and across the Bank sector units; in this specific sector, three sector units are involved (SASDE, SASDI, and SASDA) and multiple task team leaders, project implementation units, and teams. Once again, collaboration, complementarily and identification of gaps is made evident and could be easily recognized by using the maps visualization on a single platform.

Project phasing

Another dimension of project implementation that we are capturing for some of the portfolio is project phasing. The following map, for example, shows the geographic expansion of the PAF program from its inception in 2004, as new districts were added to the program. The Poverty Alleviation Fund started in 2004 as a pilot, and obtained additional financing in 2005, and was followed by PAF II from 2007. Additional financing to PAF II was recently signed. PAF aims at reaching marginalized communities throughout the country.

Phasing can also be shown for project activities; for example, the layers in the following map show the location of completed sub-projects and on-going sub-projects.

It is interesting to see the different of planned activities as it is in the Project Document versus of what is happening in the reality. Having these examples allows the project teams to communicate their challenges overtime, and the story behind the numbers. It also helps to communicate with the civil society of the pace of the project and the progress of the implementation of activities.

Implementation vs. indicators

External indicators can be used to show progress or improve targeting of the projects. For example, the mandate of the Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF) is to reach the poorest communities and the most vulnerable and excluded people within those poor communities. Therefore, to see if PAF targeting is working effectively, we can compare the poverty incidence map (from the Nepal Living Standard Survey survey 6 years ago) with the locations where PAF activities have been supported (recognizing that PAF is not yet operational nationally). This map shows darker green for areas with higher incidence of poverty and blue dots for the location of PAF activities.

We can also compare the poverty incidence map with the amounts of funding that have gone into these different areas.

These are few examples that show some of the potential uses of mapping as a visualization tool for different projects in a single platform. All of this work would not have been possible if Project Implementation Units would not have collaborated and understood the use of such a platform. The key is to feed the maps with the most accurate data possible and keep using the map database as a management tool. For that, we have learned that creating partnerships with and ownership in project implementation units is essential for the sustainability of such tool. Through the implementation of the mapping initiative, we have seen partnership as an iterative process with each partner contributing value added. The Government of Nepal (GON) possessed extensive spatial data that was not mapped and was not compatible across projects. The GON teams shared it with mapping team to create compatible datasets and the mapping team contributed to everyone’s ability to create standardized databases. The mapping team is working on training GON teams to use the standardized coding protocols and to take work forward with the clean datasets. As this partnership is sustained, we will be seeing more positive effects of data visualization through maps in operational effectiveness.


Mirella Hernani

Consultant - Mapping for Results

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