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Mapping of Malakal, Nsanje District (Partnered with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team – HOT)

Volunteers:  Tim Hohn (Project Manager), Heather Milton (GISCorps Project Manager), Jared Pilbeam, Takeo Shibata, Ian Cable, Alison DeGraff, Laxman Sharma, Oula Seitsonen, Snead Prasad, Suthakaran Sundaralingham, Katie Pickett, Alfred Swaray Bockarie, Will Ward, Peter Potisk, Jirka Panek, Timothie Biggs

In September 2014, GISCorps partnered with Severin Menard of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team to begin mapping the Southern region of Malawi along the Lower Shire River.  The area along the Lower Shire (the Nsanje District) connects Lake Malawi and the Zambezi River in Mozambique and is prone to frequent flooding that can be devastating to local communities.

The national Department of Disaster Management Affairs in Malawi (DoDMA) and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) agreed about the necessity to have detailed data of the region. Through community mapping in the field, the collected data could be used to build hazard impact scenarios with tools like InaSafe to improve planning, preparedness and response activities.  Flood prone areas were identified through local experience and knowledge from DoDMA headquarters, DoDMA districts officers, village leaders, and local residents.

Since October 2014, GISCorps volunteers have made significant progress toward mapping roads, buildings, footpaths, and waterways in an effort to add valuable spatial data to OpenStreetMap.  Areas of high priority were identified, and as of late January 2015 approximately 150 square miles have been mapped in these flood prone areas (see Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3).

Figure 1 – Project Area, Nsanje District, Malawi

Figure 2 – HOT/OSM Project Overview Page, completed tiles

Figure 3 – Detailed view of mapping progress in OSM

The project used the iD and JOSM editors developed for OSM, and the Tasking Manager developed by HOT. GISCorps managed the project, provided online documentation of project methods, and created a Q&A document where volunteers could find answers to their questions. Skype, Google Chat, and Google Drive collaboration documents have been utilized for real-time communication between volunteers.

Recent Developments

In mid-January, devastating flooding in Southern Malawi and Mozambique left tens-of-thousands displaced from their homes, thus reaffirming this project’s importance and the necessity of GISCorps’ involvement with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team ( Heavy rains have damaged crops, washed away livestock, damaged infrastructure, and have left many stranded in low-lying areas.

GISCorps volunteers have continued their hard work, mapping in designated “priority areas” where disaster planning efforts are most crucial.  The primary task is adding building footprints and infrastructure data, which will serve to estimate the number of affected people for each settlement.  Since the mid-January flooding, Severin Menard (HOT Coordinator) has re-established areas of high priority and identified several other areas within Southern Malawi in which mapping efforts are needed. 

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