Wednesday 12 July 2017

First State of the Map in Africa

It was a great privilege to present Crowd2Map at the first State of the Map Africa held in Kampala last weekend.  Over 150 people came from 21 countries and I've never been to part of a conference that had such a strong sense of community. There can't be many places where people from such diverse backgrounds as Apple, the World Bank and Mapbox get to collaborate, dance and even play football with activists from Mali, Niger and Kenya, and community mappers from around the world.

The Map Uganda team did a great job - even down to the
amazing t-shirts, although they were no match for the Rest of the World football team that closed the conference.

My personal highlights were participating in the Women Mappers panel with these amazing women, meeting the other African Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Microgrant winners and learning about their projects, and even getting started with QGIS, Overpass Turbo and UMap thanks to the very many people who were extremely patient with a beginner like me.  And I was extremely impressed with the many Youthmappers from many countries, and hope they will support the chapter we have just set up at the Institute of Rural Development Planning in Tanzania.

Sunday 19 February 2017

Drought brings hunger to Tanzania

Life in villages like Zeze in western Tanzania is precarious at the best of times.  People here are subsistence farmers living on around 80p a day and can only grow crops during the rainy seasons when they have access to water.  But now is not the best of times.

Climate Change is already having an impact here.  Ponds that used to supply water year round for animals (and often people too) have now started drying up.  The vuli rains were 6 weeks late in arriving here, inducing panic.  When the harvest fails, everyone goes hungry.

That is already happening in other areas of Tanzania.  In Kibirizi students walk for up to 4 hours a day to get to and from secondary school, on an empty stomach as there are no school lunches here.  When girls get home, they are expected to go to collect water and firewood and so have no time to study.  To try and help them overcome this disadvantage TDT helped the school set up a girls’ hostel nearby.  20 girls stayed there during the week, cooking and studying together by solar light each evening and then sleeping on the floor in one room when the lights ran out.  Their dedication is astounding.  They are determined to be the first in their families to go onto to further education and become
teachers, doctors, nurses.  In the exam results out last month they were on track to do this.  But now drought has come to Karagwe and their families have no food to send them.  The hostel is shut and all the girls have gone home.

In Maswa in Central Tanzania Kasedefo are running a successful microcredit scheme.  Women learn the basics about starting a small business and get a small loan and a mentor.  Over 200 women have succeeded.  Although their profits are modest by our standards, the effect is huge.  One woman told me now she could buy medicine for her sick baby, others can buy uniforms so their children can now attend school, and everyone took pride in their business and repaid their loans on time.

But this year’s rains have not come.  There is a shortage of water, crops are dying, people are going hungry and spending more and more time collecting water.  The women who proudly repaid instalments 3 months ago are now in tears.  Small businesses based of agriculture have no chance, and other fail because everyone is living hand to mouth with no money to spend. In times of desperation some people turn to a scapegoat.  Here that can be elderly women who can be accused of causing the drought by witchcraft.

Climate change is already affecting rainfall in places like Tanzania.  For people whose access to water is already precarious, that is life threatening. According to the Famine Early Warning System all of Tanzania now face critical food insecurity. Which is why in villages like Zeze, local youth drill by hand for 6 days through rock to reach water.  You can help them provide more vital bore holes here.