In Ramani Huria’s ground survey mapping activities, community members have always been part and parcel of the process. Their presence has consistently led to greater success and timely completion of mapping within their respective wards/areas.

Why do we collaborate with community members?

There are several reasons as to why Ramani Huria prefers to train community members to serve as mappers. To describe a few:

  • They have local knowledge of the area within which they live. This means they know the ins and outs of the places being mapped due to the fact that they were born there or have lived there for a long period of time. Most practically, the local community members have been able to direct Ramani Huria’s teams to flood prone areas and other POI’s (points of interest) with the help of field papers.
  • They provide security for the mappers (university students), using their community membership to warrant the mappers’ presence within a community. This makes it easier for the mappers to conduct ground surveys and mapping in wards where residents may be violent and may not want their properties mapped due to a fear of having their lands/buildings sold.
  • They become a part of the OSM community and, through this, are taught mapping techniques like how to use GPS units, OSM trackers, JOSM, etc. As a result, community members are well equipped and prepared to keep updating data of their area even after the completion of mapping activities.


  • As an initial step, arrangements for mapping a certain ward are made through the Ward Executive Officer (WEO). This is crucial for the project’s legitimacy as the mapping should be approved and authorized by the WEO. Additionally, the WEO can recommend the most active community leaders and members within the sub-wards that form the ward.
  • After this, a day for an Opening Community Forum is set to introduce the mapping activity to the ward. Participants invited to this meeting include community members, mappers, the WEO and his/her local leading team, as well as the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap/World Bank team. The forum begins with a thorough introduction of the project aims,and culminates with a training session on how to use GPS units, OSM trackers, JOSM, etc. During this meeting, community members discuss the locations within their ward that are most detrimentally affected by floods during the rainy seasons.
  • Then next step is to commence mapping activities with the help of the community members and mappers. Once equipped with field papers produced via the drone imagery, a mapper, accompanied by a single community member, heads to the site for data collection and ground truthing. During their site visit, the mappers and community members stick to Ramani Huria’s data model for collecting information on buildings, roads, flood prone areas, drainage, POI’s, etc.
  • The community members participate further by contributing their acquired knowledge on the local sub-wards within which they are is living. All collected information is recorded on data collection forms as well as on GPS units and/or OSM tracker.
  • After data collection, mappers and community members return to a meeting point with the rest of the Ramani Huria team. Meeting points range from ward offices to local primary schools depending on the available working spaces that are appropriate for mapping activities.
  • When mappers and community members arrive at the meeting point, the process for entering the data begins. This is normally known as digitization, whereby mappers and community members use JOSM software to transform the knowledge collected from site into useful OSM. This becomes a daily routine that is conducted until a ward area is mapped in its entirety.


A mapper and community member during data collection session.


A mapper and community member during digitization session.

  • During the mapping process, daily data reviews are practiced by the ward supervisors. This is mainly done to ensure that the data being digitized is of good quality and that any errors are corrected. In most cases, drainage channels are given the most attention due to their need for connectivity. Following drainage, buildings, amenities, and roads are further prioritized. If any information has errors or needs ground-truthing, then another team of a mappers and community members are sent to do a data clean-up for the area.

2 community members and a mapper during data clean up session.

  • After data clean up, the next important step is to create the final maps for the ward. For these maps to be produced, shapefiles are downloaded from HOT export tool. The mappers and supervisors are most often responsible for making these maps, employing QGIS software for the task. During map-making, interested community members are taught how to use the software (QGIS) and how to analyze their area. Ramani Huria also provides printed copies of the general and drainage maps to the WEO’s of the given wards to enable better disaster planning, prevention, and response that will reduce damage and loss.
  • Once the maps have been produced, dates for a Closing Community Forum are arranged and community members are informed by their leaders. During this forum, the produced maps are officially handed over to the WEO and the community members that were involved in the project receive their Certification of Appreciation.

A mapping supervisor (in white tshirt) handing the maps to a ward officer and his community members during the closing community forum in Vingunguti.