Digitizing farms in the Tsavo ecosystem

Report written by Kenyan intern Brian Mwika

Geographic Information Systems (also known as Geospatial Information Systems or GIS) are computer software and hardware systems that enable users to capture, store, analyze and manage spatially referenced data.

Working on the digitization project at a nearby wildlife lodge.


Conservation efforts have been prominent in mitigating the significant threats facing wildlife and enhancing species’ survival by using GIS knowledge. One method has been to utilize GIS to assess regions and areas occupied by wildlife. Tracking techniques and the use of GPS have helped our understanding of the use of ecosystems by different wildlife species.

Save The Elephants has 30 collared elephants across the Tsavo ecosystem. GIS is used to track elephants using GPS (Global Positioning System) collars that reported their locations via satellite. This has shown to be effective in defining how elephants specifically use ecosystems, providing useful data to understand their movements and preserving connectivity between essential sites.

The objective is to understand how to identify macro causes of human-elephant conflict (HEC). One key aspect of understanding HEC is to determine how much time collared elephants spend in farmland. However, there was no farmland data layer for Tsavo to answer such questions. Therefore I was tasked with digitizing farmland cover across Tsavo.

Digitizing required using Google Earth Imagery and access to the internet. The farms were digitized at a scale of 1:2000 using QGIS with the Open layer plugin to carry out digitizing. Below are some images of digitized farms.

Digitized farmlands in Sagalla

An overview of the digitized farmland.

Google imagery of farms in Sagalla


Digitizing the farms helped to determine which farms within Sagalla community had been crop-raided by the elephants hence E&B team can easily know where to establish more beehive fences as deterrents for crop-raiding.

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