Mapping party for the Mara river basin

Published on
February 13, 2017

On 13 February, UNESCO-IHE, Wageningen University, ITC and Upande (Kenya) organize a mapping party for the Mara river basin in Kenya. Together, they will map an area that currently suffers from famine due to persisting drought. During the mapping party, volunteers will map roads and buildings in the Mara river basin.

The map will be based on satellite images on OpenStreetMap, a detailed, open source map of the world. The local community and partners of the Mau Mara Serengeti Sustainable Water Initiative (MaMaSe) and Ground Truth 2.0 project will later add local information, for example on schools, sanitary provisions, hospitals and water points. That way, the data on the map will become more relevant on the ground.

“Maps are essential for supporting vulnerable places around the world,” says Saskia Werners, one of the initiators of this mapathon. “For instance, places which are suffering from epidemics, conflicts, natural disasters, poverty or environmental problems. Maps help governments to make better (policy) decisions. Aid organisations can offer better assistance, because they know where and how much relief supplies are needed.”

The Mara river basin is a vulnerable place. Currently, the area suffers from droughts and the local Masai communities have difficulties to feed their families. The maps produced during this mapathon, combined with knowledge, tools and data from the MaMaSe programme, will improve the water resources management in the Mara river basin and help prevent famine in the future.

Missing Maps is an initiative of the Red Cross, MSF and other NGOs aiming to map the most vulnerable places in the developing world. It is an international crowdsourcing initiative, through which people from all over the world contribute to the augmentation of the world map on OpenStreetMap. In doing so, they focus on the world’s most vulnerable spots. More than 15,000 people are involved and, together, they have contributed more than 24 million updates. So-called mapathons are being held all over the world to bring the map more up to date, bit by bit. 

You can read more about the event on the UNESCO-IHE website.