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News — 13 September, 2014

Fieldwork in Nsanje District (Weeks 6 - 7)

"Maswela bwanji?" (Good afternoon) 

"Ndasewela bwino, kaya inu?" (The afternoon is fine, what about you?)

"Ndasewela bwino." (The afternoon is fine)

"Zikomo." (Thank you)

Everywhere I went on the field, I always greeted the locals around. It always felt great to able to at least greet the locals in the Chichewa language, which usually caused them to smile and laugh with surprise.

A lot of things happened during my fieldwork in the Lower Shire- including in the Nsanje district during the 6th and 7th week of community mapping for flood preparedness with the Malawi project. Nsanje district is one of the most flood prone districts because it is a flat land and is also close to the Shire. It was not possible for us to move to a new district due to a bad network in Nsanje district, so we decided to stay in Nchalo town, Chikwawa. It was a bit problematic because it takes around 1-2 hours one way to flood prone village areas, so we had to create a new strategy: wake up around 5.00am and leave around 6.00am, everyone should arrive at the base by 4.00pm to make plans for the next day, and then repeate the cycle for the next day. But I'm very glad that everyone was able to follow this rule and kept their spirits up for mapping all day- even though the weather was quite hot during the day (almost 40 degrees of celsius).

The planning process, deciding the area of interest.

After fwe inished planning, we put the plan on Malawi OpenStreetMap (OSM) Community Facebook Group


 It was very hot at Msusa Village, Nsanje district. But, our spirit to map was not melting!

 Baobab trees, the usual landmark in the field.

Fieldwork in Nsanje is exhausting, as sometimes the weather is a bit crazy. There was one day when the weather kept changing every hour. I got rain, wind, and sun heat in one day. So if you are interested to map around Nsanje, you should prepare an umbrella/poncho/raincoat, and carry a lot of water. I had my 2 litres but that was not enough. But I always trying my best and never complaining.  It always feel nice for me when I would see Malawian children smiling, laughing, and sometimes, I didn't realize it, they were following me. Beside that, I ate a lot of Nsima and chicken provided by the local hospitality. 

My mapping team with the locals at Msusa Village

About the data that we have collected: there are more than 15,000+ waypoints collected in the 9 days of mapping for Nsanje district! You can see how intense our mapping activity on OSM country statistic for Malawi :)


A big chunk of waypoints for Nsanje District


HOTOSM Internship in Malawi

The community mapping project in Malawi is hiring interns! There are 7 students that have been involved since the training in Blantyre for field data collection. I have put a lot of trust in them as they have done great work both on the field and also with editing. On Thursday night (September 11th), we invited them to our place to have a talk about the project, OpenStreetMap, and also planned the next big thing for them: internship. HOT is proposing these students a 6-months internship to represent HOT in Malawi and continue to build a community of volunteer mappers in Malawi.

From left to right: Ben, Justin, Triphonia, Samson, Silence, Patrick, and Tiyanjane

During the discussion, the students shared their experience for the project.  They are very interested in OpenStreetMap because it is very easy to map with instead of other tools, and they are also believe that with open maps, like OpenStreetMap, they can contribute to the development of their country, Malawi. Besides that, they are also proposing their ideas for using OpenStreetMap for their project and future careers. 

So, at the end of week 7, Severin and I are back in Lilongwe to prepare InaSAFE training and to finish the last week of the project. It is sad for me that the project is almost finished (I would also like to mention that is has been a great experience working together with Maning and Severin), but I really hope that this is not the end.  This is just the beginning for creating waves of local mappers in Malawi.

Zikomo Kwambiri! (Thank you very much)

Photos by Emir Hartato CC BY-SA