In August 2022, Kenya Red Cross Society, through the International Center for Humanitarian Affairs (ICHA), successfully conducted its first-ever mapathon (a coordinated mapping event whereby participants join physically or remotely to add map data of an area through a web-based mapping platform) in Wajir County. This Mapathon served as a kick-start to a series of mapathons aiming to map out the entire county gradually.
This activity is part of a year-long project funded by the HOTOSM ESA hub, which commenced in June 2022. The project seeks to understand disaster risk and increase the resilience of vulnerable communities to climate-related disasters such as drought and floods through open map data. The project aims to collect comprehensive and up-to-date data on buildings, roads, water points, markets, health facilities, schools, and other social amenities. These datasets are essential because they form part of the capacities and vulnerabilities that are found within the communities. Open access to such datasets is imperative since it helps humanitarian actors make informed and targeted efforts on where to allocate resources.
To officially launch the project, all the stakeholders, including the HOTOSM ESA hub, KRCS-ICHA, Wajir County Government officials, and Community representatives, met during the inception meeting in July 2022 to expound the project aims and objectives. The stakeholders were practically shown through demonstrations and field engagements the mapping process, its short-term and long-term objectives, and the importance of the project to the community and humanitarian partners, especially in terms of disaster preparedness and response.
In August, the three-day mapping event attracted 30 mappers from the Wajir County government and the local community. The event focused on introducing the mappers to open data through platforms such as the OpenStreetMap (OSM) and building their capacity to map building footprints and other features of interest using the HOT tasking manager. This tool is designed for a collaborative mapping process on OpenStreetMap. Two areas within the Wajir West sub-county were mapped: – Ganyure Wagalla and Hadado Athbohol wards. By the end of the exercise, the mappers managed to add close to 6,878 building footprints to OSM, which are freely accessible. The new mappers were also introduced to mobile mapping techniques using smartphones to add features of interest to OSM. The mobile data collection was done through Organic maps – a mobile-based application that complements mapping efforts to add point features to OSM. The application is available for both Android and iOS devices. Mappers were able to add features of interest such as health facilities, pharmacies, water points/ facilities, financial and learning institutions. The mobile data collection exercise took place within Wajir township.
The second Mapathon event took place in Nairobi at Kenya Red Cross Headquarters. It attracted 80 participants drawn from diverse backgrounds and with different skills. There was presence from the OSM Kenya community, youth mappers – Technical University of Kenya (TUK) chapter, organizations such as Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Somalia, university students, and volunteers eager to contribute to OSM. The mapathon also aimed to map vulnerable communities at risk of climate-related hazards, and Wajir county was part of the mapped areas. Participants actively participated in the whole-day exercise, where more than 39,262 buildings were mapped.
The most recent activity was carried out from 1st to 3rd November 2022. This engagement saw KRCS- ICHA carry out training on using the tasking manager in the Wajir North sub-county and Habaswein town within Wajir county. The three-day training engaged county staff and community members/ volunteers on how to map with the ID editor on the HOT Tasking manager. It covered creating OSM accounts, searching for specific tasks, and adding features and their respective attributes within the editor. The participants were also taken through the use of Kobo / ODK to collect data from mapping out features of interest.
The project has added over 52,000 building footprints, 517 km of road, and over 300 features of interest. The project intends to expand its mapping efforts to cover the entire county.
The project is participatory in working with communities and stakeholders within Wajir county to identify datasets influencing disaster risk. The project also intends to build local stakeholders’ capacity to use map data for decision-making and educate them on disaster risk management. The data from the mapping activity will also be available to the National and County governments.