Tropical Storm Ana, which made landfall in Malawi on 24 January 2022, caused heavy rainfall and strong winds in several districts in Malawi. In the aftermath of the Ts Ana, Cyclone Gombe also hit the same districts. As a result, houses, road networks, hydroelectric power stations, schools, and health facilities, among others were destroyed. The districts of Salima, Chikwawa, and Nsanje were most affected by the cyclone.
Most information generated on the scale of the cyclone has mainly focused on attribute data leaving out spatial specifications. This project, therefore, seeks to generate updated GeoSpatial data about the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ana and Cyclone Gombe through an analysis of key infrastructure affected in the Chikwawa and Nsanje districts in the southern region of Malawi.
The primary goal of this project is to develop effective mechanisms for mitigating climate change-related disasters by generating geospatial data critical for disaster recovery, planning, and decision-making. Active community participation is a key component of this project to ensure that the actual areas are accurately displayed on the map. Baseline studies were conducted through Focus Group Discussions to identify the hotspots of damage caused by Tropical Storm Ana and Cyclone Gombe.
To better understand the challenges faced by the affected communities, the project conducted induction meetings with local councils in Chikwawa and Nsanje districts.
During the Focus Group Discussions, the project team gathered valuable insights on the detrimental effects of climate change-related disasters on local communities, with several stories being cited. For instance, in Nthumba, a community in Chikwawa, floods had occurred for the first time, leaving a student from Nthumba primary school unable to attend school for over three months due to unsafe travel conditions and flooded school blocks. The student had lost all her exercise books and clothes, which hindered her learning progress, given that students in other districts unaffected by floods could still attend classes and prepare for the same national examinations.
Moreover, the floods also affected a school for the blind in Nsanje, making it challenging for students to find shelter. According to the chairman of the Nsanje VCPC, over 5,000 households were affected and destroyed by the water in Nsanje.
Malawi Redcross Society together with Nkhoma University and Malawi OpenStreetMap, therefore, organized the first training on OpenStreetMap took place in conjunction with the Faculty of Education, Nkhoma University, last year, whereby participants were introduced to the iD editor for mapping. This was followed by a mapathon in November in partnership with Lilongwe University of Natural Resources and Agriculture (LUANAR) and YouthMappers to introduce new mappers to OSM.
Despite challenges, such as a lack of experienced mappers in the country, many students are willing to contribute to mapping. The project has trained 22 students (10 female and 12 male) in OpenStreetMap, and one student, Winstone Nkhoma, managed to make 36,840 changes within 14 days, currently ranking second among the 500 contributors in Malawi.
During the induction meeting, the project successfully engaged 110 members from the districts of Nsanje and Chikwawa, who participated in the study area identification and awareness. They were amazed by the project’s potential to reveal vulnerabilities within their localities. In November 2022, during the mapathon, 20 females and 25 males were involved in mapping 100 buildings and 40 km of roads. Through this project, Nkhoma University was accepted to join the Youth Mappers Chapter.