Settlement Mapping

Imagine trying to keep people safe from a hurricane headed for the coast if you don’t know where people live along that coast. Without settlement locations, place names, and extents, your interventions may be ineffective. This is true not only of emergencies like natural disasters, but of all government and humanitarian planning.

Why it matters

To identify a country’s needs, resources, and development priorities, it is crucial to understand where and how people live. When governments plan budgets, health workers distribute bednets, humanitarian workers respond to an emergency, or individuals need to access local resources, they often turn to settlement maps.

Settlement data (including points, names, and extents) characterise the environments in which humans live. They provide vital information about communities such as name, buildings distribution, and geographic extent. GRID3 locates settlements so that all people, whether they live in farmland, suburbs, or cities, are visible to policy makers, critical service providers, and other stakeholders.



“[Settlement extents can be used] for vaccination campaigns. It helps us identify vulnerable populations that may not have easy access to a health facility. But settlement extents are also being used in a lot of different projects [within GRID3]. It’s helping in planning for bednet distribution, census cartography, and school placement optimisations.”

Jolynn Schmidt, Program Manager and Data Lead, CIESIN

How it fits into the GRID3 package

Outdated, incomplete, or inaccurate maps result in inefficient and inequitable planning and resource distribution. However, settlement maps help ground population counts. They provide context and color to a number of other data. For example, settlement information is:

  • Foundational to census enumeration

Census managers must know where people live in order to efficiently plan where to go.

  • Instrumental to delineating boundaries and identifying infrastructure locations
  • Essential for sustainable planning

Accurately mapping and naming settlements enables tracking and monitoring the progress of activities/interventions/programmes, etc. in critical sectors such as agriculture, health, and education.

Our approach

GRID3 works collaboratively with national stakeholders, integrating available settlement maps with new data, often involving the use of remote sensing and GPS field data, to generate accurate, up-to-date, and complete settlement data. This work is led by GRID3 partner CIESIN.

Population housing census support

Mobility analysis

High-resolution population estimates

Mapping subnational boundaries

Infrastructure mapping

Capacity strengthening

To the overview