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News — 24 June, 2010

Haiti mission 3 - Jacmel and Leogane reports

The team left in a convoy formed by two pick-ups from the Shelter Cluster since the World Food Program (WFP) & the UN Logistics Cluster had to renounce for operational reasons to their participation to this capacity building mission in the Centre and South of the country.

The crew was composed of Guensmork and Senatus (Forum Communautaire of Cite Soleil -FOCS), Todd, Trevor, Kate and myself (HOT) and Emmanuel and Desrosiers  (IFRC drivers). The training process got initiated right from the IFRC base camp in Port Au Prince. Guensmork introduced Emmanuel and Desrosiers to the art of surveying with GPS and the UNSDIT Road and Obstacle questionnaire used by WFP and the UN Logistics Cluster to feed the Haitian road condition status map of the main logistics corridors. This introduction got well received and once exposed to 2 days of training in Jacmel, Emmanuel and Desrosiers were able to take an active and part teaching on the whole package (Emmanuel) and on the surveying block (Desrosiers); without their support we would have been outnumbered in our second day in Leogane..

The journey to Jacmel was easy throughout  the metropolitan areas, the plain and mountains to Jacmel described previously by Dane in a previous post and the UNDP compound which will serve as the base for the trainings planned 21-22 .  This session would not been possible without the active coordination role played by Catherine Lefebvre and Jessie Vital both Information Management and GIS Officers respectively for the Shelter Cluster and OCHA and the support from Ovidio (UNDP) and Franz (DINEPA - Direction Nationale pour l'Eau Potable et l'Assainissement/ Water Management Board) who provided an adequate venue and together wiht the Shelter Cluster food to participants.
Overall close to 40 persons were trained in those 2 days some participating to the 2 sessions. This was again an enthusiastic and eager to learn mix of people coming from the UN cluster system (IOM, CCCM, OCHA), national structures (DINEPA and DPC - Direction de la Protection Civile / DIsaster Management Agency, Ministry of Environment, Mairies), local NGOs (MEDAIR, Diakonie) and individuals or groups from the civil society interested in joining the first nucleous of OSM mappers in Leogane formed at the event of the past mission.
The lessons learned from those 2 days of trainings were as similar as in LogBase overall the training went well with all participants being exposed to the whole program of the HOT OSM course. Heterogeneity in terms of linguistic skills, generic IT literacy, geography and geomatics culture made it hard though to form coherent groups resulting into slow paced itinerary in the course when some could have easily gone further. 25 appeared to be the threshold number of individuals we could efficiently train. 4 hours the time needed to bring everyone to comfortable skills in surveying, uploading & visualizing GPX points in JOSM. 6 hours the time needed to get people started on basic use of the editor JOSM.
Again those days verified the strong social aspect of the training dynamics at work in the lab around mapping: many and multi were the professional and social connections established amongst individuals and groups. Participants got aware of the power of cooperative working shemes in geodata management. Late afternoon the 22-June, the assembly broke out agreeing to convey to a bar on the beach for food and drinks at bar by the beach. Huge regards from team and participants to Todd who generously translated the concept of open bar into something very tangible and very much appreciated. No doubt that Prestige (the Haitian beer) added its magics to the alchemy which had been leading to the forging of OSM Jacmel. The day after we handed to Franz and Jessie for the Jacmel mappers our first HOT hardware kit  - laptop, 3 GPS units, 2 GPS Data Loggers, one A4 printer/scanner in a pelican case. Franz agreed to make available office space at the DINEPA to local mappers so that they can continue building their mapping skills and be ready to engage into the activities carried out by the UN clusters and national/local sturctures working in Jacmel. The day before, Franz as representative of DINEPA and head of the Water and Sanitation cluster invited me to join their meeting and introduce the OSM training program and follow-up plans. I spoke in favour of an active use of the OSM resources by clusters and pointed out the operational benefits for the UN Cluster system and the National and Local structures to leverage on the capacities created in Jacmel by OSM and engage into joint regular training and surveying work as per their operational plans and the disaster preparedness activities of the general Contingency plan. The speech was well received, specifically the part relating to training activities. The 3 OSM trips to Jacmel were the only formal group training on organized since 12-Jan, so far this was delivered on ad hoc and bilateral basis by Jessie. After the "donation", the group split because of an engine break: Kate, Guens, Senatus and myself with Desrosiers made up our way to Leogane while Emmanuel remained in Jacmel to get the car sorted, Todd and Trevor headed back to Port Au Prince.

in the late morning, after a fast ride, we arrived safe (thanks Desrosiers for this) in Leogane where Frederic (IOM) and Abed (CNIGS in contract with IOM) had preceded us and started the working session in the MINUSTAH base previously described by Dane. Our host in Leogane was Safari, the OCHA coordinator, who made the widest container- based office space in the base available for us and helped out with our lodging. He and Catherine from the Shelter Cluster did a great work coordination work ensuring an attendance by up to 50 persons. This large and diverse audience was made of UN and NGO entities from the UN cluster system and National/ Local Authorities plus local NGOs. Handling those large groups would not have been possible without the support of Frederic and Abed (IOM) and Emmanuel and Desroziers freshly trained in Jacmel. Thanks also for the Shelter Cluster for paying the meals. .

The challenge we faced in Leogane was to teach groups of up to 25 trainees diverse by the language, the IT literacy and their culture of geography and geomatics. This was happening  in the largest containerized meeting space available at the base but which was way undersized to our wide audience. The groups were broken by language, IT/GIS level and ownership of computers. The challenge was met at the cost of an un-precedented intensity of work: we trained from 23-June late morning to 24-June early afternoon barely stopping at night to take some rest in AC powered sleeping places for those who were able to stand the cold or in empty newly built containerized office spaces for the others. This intensity gave an idea of the interest and passion generated by the training amongst participants. We succeeded in passing to all the minimal intended set of skills in surveying and basic editing.  Kate exposed more advanced individuals from Terre des Hommes, Handicap International and Hands on Disaster Response to a heavier GIS package related to the use of OSM. We trained large groups (up to 16 at a time), small groups (2 to 6), individuals. We trained in large or small containers. We trained through formal classroom sessions or informal sessions, ended up with a GPS poker party with 3 drivers in the late 23-June evening. One of the reasons for this interest is like in Jacmel the absence of collective hands on training sessions in geodata management. This made of the Leogane experience an important contribution the overall readiness of Leogane field workers report geo-located information in standard formats. Information Management and project coordinators showed an interest to organize follow-up activities on multi thematic assessments trainings and collective editing. It's likely that they will be helped in this effort by IOM joined by the Shelter Cluster through the baselines surveys planned for July in Leogane, Petit and Grand Goave and Gressier. Unlike in Jacmel, we had no time to hand over a HOT OSM  hardware kit to a group active in Leogane able to support the growth of a local OSM community. We were planning to approach this issue in coordination with the IOM and Shelter cluster surveys, advanced GIS users, and coordinators in Leogane. Of these intense hours spent in the mudd, the rain amongst mango trees, containers, tents in Leogane, I'll bring back with me the feeling of a brotherhood in the making which helped out standing firm against fatigue, hunger (2 late lunches in 1.5 days) and for Senatus.

While driving our way back to the base to start preparing the next trip to Gonaives we took note of the repeated need for integrating the Trimble and Oregon GPS units in our surveying guides as well as focusing more on data conversion tools from (OSM, EXCEL and KML) in our GIS guides. Another findings from this trip by Todd and Trevor was the unfitness of Android phones for field survey in cloudy/ rainy weather which they would be documenting in a stand alone report.

Kate and Nicols for HOT