Hacking for Hunger - USAID Hackathon

The Geo-Wiki Team took part in the Hacking for Hunger USAID Hackathon on 14/15th of September 2012. The aim of the hackathon challenge was the validation of Geo-Wiki crowdsourced data in Ethiopia in order to contribute to a better understanding in land use and to get a better picture of land availability. 

About the Hackathon

Land grabbing is the large scale acquisition or leasing of lands in developing countries for purposes such as biofuel production. The amount of actual land available is often over estimated and can lead to displacement of the local population, affecting food security and local livelihoods. Ethiopia is an example of a country where land grabbing is happening now. One of the  most important factors in determining the probability of being a target country for these acquisitions is the perceived availability of land. To halt land grabbing in Ethiopia, we need a better estimate of true land availability. That's why volunteers help was needed.

The Geo-Wiki put forth a challenge for volunteers to help stop land grabbing in Ethiopia. Using a version of Geo-Wiki located at hackathon.geo-wiki.org,  volunteers were asked to identify areas of cultivation and settlements using Google Earth imagery. Together the volunteers collected more than 50,000 points, which represents more than 5% of the area of Ethiopia.

The first results of the recent USAID hackathon experience were presented by ESM Researcher Linda See at the World Food Summit in Des Moines Iowa, US on 16th of October 2012. 

Top Validators

During the USAID Hackathon we have collected more than 4,000 points but our goal was 50,000 validation points. Therefore we continued the hackathon until the 6th of October 2012. In total more than 70,000 points were validated. Around 80% of the validated pixels were supplied by the top tree of the 32 hackathon participants, having a medium to high confidence. Of the more than 77,000 pixels assessed, 308 were only assessed once; the remaining pixels were examined by up to 30 participants. The top validators include: 

Name Affiliation 
 1 Ujjal Deka Baruah Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam, India
 2 Nitashree Mili Dibrugarh University, Assam, India 
 3 Npendra Ram B. Borooah College, Guwahati, Assam, India
Table 1: Top 3 validators of the hackathon

Further, we did a hackathon for organisations during the IIASA conference taking place form 24th to 26th of October 2012. The winning organisation was the Department of Geography, B. Borooah College, Guwahati, Assam, India. 


Here we present some first results on settlements and cultivation:

Crowdsourced points on settlement

Crowdsourced points on cultivated area.

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Last edited: 25 January 2013


Steffen Fritz

Senior Research Scholar

Ecosystems Services and Management

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International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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