Using the USAID Calculator to estimate the GHG benefits of policies


The USAID calculator has been designed primarily as a tool for estimating the benefits of individual projects or groups of projects. As such the input data required to use the tools are inputs a project implementer would be expected to have available.

However, the tools can also be used to estimate the benefits of policies which have been implemented. Policies differ from projects in that they are one step removed from actual landuse management practice changes on the ground. In order to use the tool to estimate the GHG benefits of a given policy a user will need to know:

  1. If the policy will have landuse management changes that can be quantified by the Calculator’s tools.
  2. The area the policy was intended to impact during the reporting period and that there is a link of attribution between the policy and any changes on the ground.
  3. The minimum data requirements to use the tool.
  4. What the likely effectiveness of the policy was relative to a perfectly implemented policy over the area identified.

The ‘Policy Tool’ of the USAID website will guide users through an interactive process to explore points 1, 2 and 3 above and reach a conclusion on whether or not they can use the tool. Within the activity type specific calculators, an effectiveness guide will be available to help users estimate the likely effectiveness of their policy over time.

Users are therefore advised to first consult the Policy Page and then if they have the required information enter it into the calculator.

Entering a policy in the calculator

A Policy must be entered in the calculator as a new ‘Activity’ within a ‘Project’. When setting up a new Activity, it is important to enter a suitable value for the ‘Total Area’. In the case of a policy, total area means the area of land over which the policy aims to influence land management practices. The effectiveness tool within the calculator will then help the user estimate the degree to which the policy was successful in reaching the entire area. For example, if a policy aims to stimulate new agroforestry planting on degraded land in a particular region, and it is calculated that the land that the available land which meets the criteria is 10,000ha, the total area will be entered as 10,000ha. The effectiveness tool will then help estimate how likely the policy was in achieving this target. If the actual area that was impacted was known, that could be entered as the total area and then the effectiveness manually overwritten to be 100%.