The third the Gaborone Declaration's three commitments encourages member countries to take action towards, “generating data and building capacity to support policy networks.” Data and monitoring are essential for incorporating natural capital into decision-making and pursuing sustainable production.

The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly’s set a new agenda for development, with the ambitious aim of eradicating extreme poverty within the next 15 years while also recognizing environmental limits. Addressing competing priorities of the 17 SDGs will require explicitly addressing trade-offs and synergies among stakeholders and building collaborative relationships; it will also require the development of cost-effective, integrated monitoring.


Vital Signs

The Vital Signs monitoring system collects and integrates data using standardized protocols and methods including household surveys, vegetation plot measurements, and remote sensing. The data aims to communicate the importance of ecosystem services for small holder agriculture, and guide governments, policy makers and other key stakeholders in understanding the complex trade-offs between agriculture, ecosystems and human wellbeing. The ultimate goal is to ensure that agricultural development does not undermine conservation and ecosystem services critical to human well-being. Vital Signs is implemented in Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda and has just started implementation in Kenya. As one integrated monitoring system with an integrated set of data, Vital Signs is well placed to provide a cost effective integrated approach to monitoring the SDG indicators in countries. 


Watch: Vital Signs 


Vital Signs across the GDSA

Three of the GDSA member countries are currently part of the Vital Signs program: Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. Vital Signs is working with countries to examine how the Vital Signs data can help countries monitor their progress towards the SDGs. Specifically, the Vital Signs data can inform indicators on agriculture, food insecurity, malnutrition, disaster risk, and disease. Vital Signs provides an opportunity for data integration to glean insights from this information and to visualize and synthesize them in an accessible manner for all audiences. 

GDSA and Vital Signs

Moving forward, Vital Signs will be working closely with the GDSA on several initiatives detailed, below: 


Data and Monitoring to inform decision-making
Vital Signs will continue its work at the country-level, which is aimed at engaging with policy makers and key stakeholders within their four target countries. More information can be found on the Vital Signs website. In addition, Vital Signs will work with the GDSA to understand opportunities for how existing datasets in other GDSA countries can be used to help inform decision-making, using the Vital Signs expertise. Finally, Vital Signs will work to bring new monitoring tools to the GDSA and will work to try and develop an evidence base for the first two commitments under the GDSA.

Data and Monitoring on progress towards the SDGs
Given the utility of Vital Signs as an integrated, cross-disciplinary monitoring platform, the GDSA will work with Vital Signs to explore how Vital Signs indices can be used to monitor progress towards the SDGs. In 2017, the GDSA - together with Vital Signs and CI - held a six-country workshop on understanding the link between nature and the SDGs, as it pertains to country reporting. As a result of this workshop, CI and the GDSA have now published a conceptual tool to facilitate understanding of the dependency of the SDGs on nature. Vital Signs is implementing a pilot of this tool in Uganda, a GDSA member country.



Regional Lessons Sharing across the GDSA
At the regional level, the GDSA Secretariat will aim to use its role as a convener to work with Vital Signs to spread valuable information about how data and monitoring can inform decision-making around sustainable development. This lessons sharing, potentially via a community of practice, will allow growth across the GDSA as countries learn through ongoing evaluation, reflection and shared learning, through the creation of case studies, mapping partner activity, and bringing partners together.




For more information, please contact:

Alice Ruhweza
Executive Director, Vital Signs

Photo credits © Benjamin Drummond