*last updated October 2022

Mapping a solution for pastoralists with the “Shepherd's Eye in the Sky”

A quarter of a billion pastoralists (nomadic and semi-nomadic livestock herders) serve as the primary custodians of Africa’s drylands – an ecologically rich area that spans 42% of the continent’s landmass. With prolonged droughts and changing land use pressures, 65% of this land is degrading and up to 45% is impacted by desertification. As a result, on average, pastoralists are losing a quarter to a third of their herds each year due to an inability to find adequate pasture or water – a problem that has only been exacerbated by climate change.

AfriScout is a digital service that was created by Global Communities (formerly PCI) to overcome these challenges by supporting pastoralists to improve their grazing practices and increase productivity.

Using localized satellite imagery and crowd-sourced indigenous knowledge, the AfriScout mobile app acts as the “shepherd’s eye in the sky” by providing pastoralists with near real-time, visual data on forage and water conditions in the palm of their hand. Pastoralists use the digital grazing maps to better plan and coordinate grazing and to share geo-located alerts related to animal diseases, conflicts, or restricted grazing access, among others.

To further avoid conflicts and protect conservation and wildlife areas, our maps are restricted to the borders of customary rangelands which have been validated by host communities and local authorities. In each communal rangeland area, AfriScout field agents onboard new users and support existing users on how to maximize our service to improve their grazing management.


AfriScout user accounts supporting 245,000+ households

59 million

hectares of rangelands mapped


user-posted grazing alerts

AFRISCOUT a Global Communities social entreprise logo

Explore The App

  • Monitor current rangeland conditions using localized grazing maps.
  • The latest release displays vegetation and surface water resolution down to 10 m2.
  • Reduces the data burden to only 20KB per map update, allowing cheap and fast downloads on unstable 2G networks.
  • Share peer-to-peer grazing alerts (diseases, conflicts, restricted access, etc).
  • Calculate distance to anywhere on the map.
  • The latest release displays vegetation and surface water resolution down to 10 m2.
  • The service is completed and functioning in 6 counties in Kenya, 4 districts in Tanzania and 16 woredas in Ethiopia.
  • The app is fully functional offline.
  • Available in English, Swahili, Qafarara and Oromifaa.

Regenerating Africa's Drylands: From climate change adaptation to mitigation

AfriScout initially started as a tool to enable pastoralists to adapt to changes in the climate, helping them become more resilient in the face of recurring droughts and other extreme weather events. Over the years, pastoralists have taught us how they are using AfriScout to better manage pasture. The app enables them to make smarter land management decisions through the practice of rotational grazing.

While industrial cattle farming is carbon intensive, regenerative grazing practices have proven that livestock can be better managed to grow grass and sequester carbon into the soil. Improving grazing management on global grasslands could sequester about 10% of annual human generated carbon emissions (International Union for Conservation of Nature & Natural Resources). Most regenerative grazing models and tools focus on smaller, private ranches, whereas over 40% of land in Africa is stewarded communally by pastoralists. This requires new tools and training tailored for these communities and landscapes.

We are working to enhance AfriScout’s technology using artificial intelligence to optimize grazing plans for land and herd health. Over the next five years, we want to launch these new features in 70 community rangelands to sequester carbon across 1.7 million hectares of rangeland and generate additional income for pastoralists through the carbon offset market. We estimate the initiative could sequester over 1.2 tons of carbon per hectare (tC/ha) each year for the next 20 years. This is the equivalent of preventing 728 million pounds of coal from being burned every year1.

As climate change threatens to trigger large scale hunger crises around the world, it is vital that we empower frontline communities like Africa’s pastoralists who are at once the hardest hit, yet also represent our most productive assets for food security and climate change mitigation.


1 www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator#results

Kitabo Wele, 25, Afriscout promoter

Monocle 24 Radio: Indigenous practices meet mobile technology

AfriScout co-founders Chris Bessenecker and Jennifer Waugaman share how one pastoralist family’s tragic plight to find pasture and water for their dying livestock led to the creation of AfriScout, an app that is filling a critical information gap for nomadic farmers on the frontlines of climate change.


Mobile app helps cattle herders in Kenya

Voice of America traveled to one of our northern Kenya locations to meet with pastoralists who are using AfriScout to find rich pastures and water for their livestock.


Navigating drought: The app saving Kenya’s herders

AfriScout was the lead segment on Al Jazeera’s award-winning Earthrise series. Watch how a pastoralist in drought-stricken Kenya is using the mobile app to adapt to climate change.


AfriScout – The shepherd’s eye in the sky

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) documents how AfriScout meets pastoralists at the intersection of tradition and technology.


Evidence of Impact

A three-year external study by Fordham University found that:

  • 76% of AfriScout users consider our maps to be their most important information source for migration decision-making;
  • 69% improved their ability to manage pasture; and
  • 42% believed that AfriScout had reduced conflict.

Moreover, the study found that pastoralists who have used our maps have increased their wealth by more than $4,600 (over a two-year period) relative to those who do not have access to the service. That is equivalent to $67 per cow.

Afriscout - Percent of Herd in Good Condition Graphic (960 × 960 px)


consider maps to be informative source.


improved ability to manage pasture.


reduction in conflict.


attributable benefit for average herder.


Rehabilitating a Livestock Lifesource

"A recent alert was posted on AfriScout about a broken dam which supplied a vital water source for animals in the dry season. We saw this alert, investigated and repaired the dam to protect the lives and livestock who depend on it."

Nestori Dagharo, Livestock Officer, Longido, Tanzania


Improving Grazing Decisions

“When we just followed scouting, we invested a lot of energy and expenses. We would go to faraway places without realizing there is pasture and water nearby. Using this app has reduced those expenses and made it easy to decide where to migrate.”

Kole Kilkila, AfriScout user, South Omo zone, Hammer woreda, Ethiopia


Preventing Livestock Disease Spread

“I saw several alerts on AfriScout about the contagious ecthyma disease in my area. I mobilized the leaders to help us vaccinate our animals. Luckily, they agreed, and they vaccinated over 90,000 livestock, thus safeguarding our herd from falling sick and even dying.”

Abdullahi Mohamed , AfriScout user, Bura, Garissa, Kenya

Kitabo Wele, 25, Afriscout promoter

Improving Grazing Decisions

“We have been under constant pressure for a long time and sometimes forced to make arbitrary decisions, but now we migrate with greater confidence.”

Rashid Abdurro, AfriScout user, Ethiopia

Kitabo Wele, 25, Afriscout promoter

Avoiding Herd-Wildlife Interactions

“As the district veterinarian, I was scheduled to hold a vaccination clinic within a nearby community. AfriScout alerts indicated elephant migrations in this area. The venue was changed to avoid risks to herds and wildlife alike.”

Dr. Yassin Mshana, District Veterinarian, Simanjiro, Tanzania


Preventing Inter-Community Conflicts

“Historically, the Meru-Isiolo border has always been rife with conflicts. But nowadays, whenever I hear any hint of conflict at the border, I post the conflict alert on the AfriScout app and the herders who see my alert while on the way to the border rangelands turn back immediately. This has helped us to save many lives.”

Abdi Dida, Chief, Bulapesa, Isiolo, Kenya


Preserving Traditional Livelihoods/Roles

“AfriScout has helped me navigate the plains, see the actual vegetation conditions, surface water availability and prevailing dangers, which I can report to the elders and household members. In this way, AfriScout has helped me fulfill my traditional Maasai Morani (warrior) role.”

Sapunyu Laizer, AfriScout user, Maganga township, Tanzania


Improving Grazing Decisions

“Using AfriScout, an elder from our village observed a new, closer location with better grazing conditions than where he typically moves his herd. Informed by the app, he was able to avoid overgrazing and reduce the burden of travel on his herd.”

Lameck Sumwa, AfriScout Field Agent, Monduli, Tanzania


Preventing Inter-Community Conflicts

“Conflict has almost completely been reduced or is near zero. Previously, everybody would come for this rangeland, fight and there would be loss of life and even cattle would die. AfriScout has helped reduce this, because the application has provided more options for migration and grazing.”

Kole Kilkila, AfriScout user, South Omo zone, Hammer woreda, Ethiopia


Informing Local Advocacy Efforts

“AfriScout alert posts help me to detect areas that have been influenced by drought so that I can request the government to support and provide for residents’ basic needs.”

Abdirahman Mohamud, Chief, Garissa South, Kenya


Preventing Cross-Border Disease Transmission

“While visiting a nearby Kenyan village I saw AfriScout alerts on foot and mouth disease. I brought this to our elders on the Tanzanian side. They mobilized the government to vaccinate all 6,000 of our cows, ensuring our herd would not succumb to this disease.”

Laranaa Laizer, AfriScout Ambassador, Longido, Tanzania


Improving Grazing Decisions

“I have used AfriScout and trained other pastoralists on how to use the app for more than two years now. I can attest that the app is digitizing pastoralism in the area. Can you imagine knowing the exact distance to where you are migrating your livestock to and planning your route in advance? That was unthinkable just a few years ago.”

Francisco Lokuru, AfriScout Field Agent, Laisamis, Kenya

Partnerships & Accolades

Since its inception, AfriScout has garnered support from Google, USAID, UBS Optimus Foundation and Hapke Family Foundation, among other public and private donors. In 2021, co-founders Chris Bessenecker and Jennifer Waugaman were selected as UBS Global Visionaries for their thought leadership and innovative efforts to test and develop new solutions that are moving the needle on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, namely climate action, life on land, zero hunger and no poverty. AfriScout was a Classy Award Winner for innovative, groundbreaking social impact programs, a Social Tech Guide Nominee Trust 100, and one of Venture Africa’s “10 African Tech for Good Startups to Watch in 2017.” In 2016, it was one of five finalists for the P3 Impact Award (Public-Private Partnership), where Bessenecker presented on the main stage at the Concordia Summit early in its development.

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