The work and mumblings of Mark Iliffe

First Days Of Mapping; Mapping With Your Feet


We had 20 people; representatives of the Tandale community combined with 25 students from Ardhi University. The past two days have been spent introducing the OSM process in surveying then editing.

We had previously imported the sub-ward boundaries into OSM to provide context for the mappers and to see the boundaries of Tandale. With our equipment and plan we aim to produce a map made by and for the communities of Tandale. Creating a map has implications for future service provision and the potential to observe effects which schemes (conducted by either internal or external actors) have, the rationale for doing this will be explained in later posts.

With all mappers arriving we squeezed into a ward office and commenced setting up. We spoke about mapping with your feet. Essentially it’s a methodology where you map, surprisingly, what’s at your feet. Things like pharmacies, water and general stores are the sort of things that benefit the community. Because the first few days are about getting data, we didn’t introduce map cakes or directed mapping on a topic; we felt that this would complicate matters. These are to be introduced in the coming days.

Our biggest challenge on the first turned out to be a positive. Tandale was experiencing a power cut when we arrived at the ward office. We had planned to show the sub-ward boundaries and seek feedback on where to commence mapping. Drawing the first stroke of anything is hard; “where should I start?”. To solve this we used our most valuable assets; the community members themselves. They picked up a GPS and went to their homes. Bypassing the students and giving the tools directly to the community members seems to be the way forward.

Tandale Day One

The community mappers really understood what they were supposed to be doing. It seemed intuitive process where they would see something, then create a waypoint. This was tagged by someone else in the team writing down the number of the waypoint and its attributes, like name, function and other metadata.

Once the mappers have finished mapping, edited and uploaded we held a discussion about the process. In doing so we have been able to identify areas where the structure of OSM doesn’t cover their needs. One of issues was within the shop presets; firewood shops are common in Tandale. Other issues are about the catagorisation of health suppliers eg. pharmacies due to their informal status.

Once the mappers get confident with the principles of OSM we can start to include the more complicated areas such as building tracing and identifying landuse. With this we will then need to start ‘doing’ something with the map we have created and the community know this. To this end an Ushahidi instance will be introduced first and possibly later a blog to allow the community to raise awareness of the issues they face.

They then went home to rest, preparing for another day of mapping. Our work has just begun.

Written and submitted in the World Bank Offices, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania (-6.81298, 39.29194)

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