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GIS Toolbox

1 Introduction

Mapping is often the “poor sibling” of data management in the humanitarian and development sector. While it can produce visually appealing and effective renderings, it generally requires time and a significant technical background. The approach is based on a set of concepts and tools that must be mastered to produce quality maps and spatial analyses.

This toolbox aims to address these theoretical concepts and to provide tutorials of useful tools in the practice of cartography and - for more advanced profiles - Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

It focuses both on the production of static maps (with tools like QGIS, ArcGIS Pro, etc.) and on the use of turnkey interactive mapping solutions (uMap, GoGoCarto, ArcGIS Online). The creation of online maps via web development (Leaflet, OpenLayers, etc.) has been deliberately left out of the box because it requires skills that are rarely available within NGOs.

Without being 100% exhaustive, this toolbox was developed with the idea of presenting to the users a range of solutions that exist today: it therefore details several tools, both proprietary and Open Source. Each tool has its own specificities, with differences in usage and rendering; however, the toolbox does not present, to this date, a comparative table of the different solutions.

The majority of the resources require only to be at ease with computers and to have time to train; others require a more advanced mastery of the principles of database management. Indeed, it is important to remember that mapping, both in its learning and in its daily practice, takes time to arrive at the desired results; a criterion not to be neglected before launching!

This GIS toolkit aims to introduce the concepts associated with cartography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It is a technical and practical toolkit for self-training in mapping and GIS basics. The current version of the toolkit is not a guide to developing cartography and GIS in your organization. It brings together theoretical concepts and tool tutorials that will allow you to become more competent.

This toolbox is for you if:

  • You are comfortable using a computer tool,
  • You master the basics of spreadsheet software like Excel,
  • You have time to put into practice what is discussed,
  • You want to learn a free tool like QGIS.


This toolkit includes 7 parts:

How to use it ?

The toolbox pathway allows you to be introduced to concepts before getting into tool manipulation, but it is possible to focus on the tool tutorials if you are already introduced to mapping and GIS. Many external resources are highlighted, including other mapping software (Magrit, Khartis) or data collection software (OsmAnd).


The Excel toolkit was compiled by the CartONG team, in particular Gilles Cazaban, Luc Kpogbe and Pascaline Wallemacq.

Founded in 2006, CartONG is a French NGO specialized in information management that aims to put data at the service of humanitarian, development and social action projects. We seek to improve the quality and accountability of field activities, notably through better needs assessment and monitoring/evaluation. As a multidisciplinary resource and expertise center, we support our partners’ strategies and operations. Our teams also support the sector by producing documentation, building capacity and raising awareness of the technical, strategic and ethical challenges of digital technologies.

This toolkit was produced as part of the project “Strengthening Program Data Management of Francophone CSOs” led by CartONG and co-funded by the French Development Agency (AFD) over the period 2019-2022. For more information, see the article published on our website or contact us by email.


This publication is supported by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE-CDCS), the French Development Agency (AFD). However, the ideas and opinions presented in this toolkit do not necessarily represent those of MEAE-CDCS and AFD.

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This toolkit was designed using resources from and The Noun Project.