Guest blog: Enkhtungalag of Ger Community Mapping Center, Mongolia, who are the beneficiaries of a 2017 HOT Microgrant.
Mongolia is considered one of the most democratic countries in the region, sandwiched between its only neighbors Russia and China. However, to up-to-date, reliable, easy to access information, is one of the fundamental pillars of democracy, and still remains a challenge. Without information, the public has no power to participate meaningfully in its country’s governance.
This is why Ger Community Mapping Center, a local NGO, has focused on promoting community mapping as a tool for participatory decision-making for community-driven, sustainable and inclusive urban development by creating open-access public data.
What a HOT Microgrant means to our mapping community?
With the HOT Microgrant, we will be able to expand our community outreach to include youth and community leaders in the most underserved areas in urban and peri-urban settlements across Mongolia. The HOT Microgrant program will enable us to kickstart our Mapathon Program and establish a Mongolian Chapter of YouthMappers.
The HOT Microgrant program makes it possible not only to create up-to-date, community based data, but also to build capacity of local youth in mapping with OSM. By training more youth and community members in OSM, we will be able to provide quality data for local communities, decision-makers, and development organizations to better plan, identify areas of need and respond to gaps in services and risks and vulnerabilities more effectively.
Mapping with urban communities
Mongolian society has gone through tremendous changes in the last 30 years since the democratic revolution, and its decision-makers are facing complex challenges. Among them is rapid and unplanned urbanization from rural-urban migration with consequences such as lack of access to basic services and environmental pollution.
Our mapping and community engagement efforts focus on issues arising from unplanned urbanization in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. In particular, we work extensively with local communities in the unplanned urban sprawl, home to 65% of the city population. These areas are known as the ger, or yurt districts, where the residents are not connected to central infrastructure such as heating, running water or sewage systems.
In order for the ger area communities to effectively engage decision-makers in building their living environments to be safer, inclusive and healthy, information on existing resources and gaps in services need to be identified. This is where our Mapathon program will be instrumental in mapping the ger areas, and making the data available and accessible through OpenStreetMap. We plan to organize one mapathon each month with youth and community members in different communities in the ger area. Partnering with other local organizations such as the national youth library and a community park for children in the ger area, we will be able to start our Mapathon Program, which will become a part of our regular activity as an NGO.
Mapping to protect our heritage and way of life
Community mapping, through the Mapathon Program will also be instrumental in working with rural communities, particularly to gather data on climate change vulnerabilities. Mongolia is one of the last countries with existing nomadic culture in the world. The way of life intertwined with the environment, the climate and animal husbandry is our unique heritage. It also means, however, that this way of life is threatened, as Mongolia is one of the most impacted countries by climate change, with three times higher increase in temperature compared to the global rate of the warming climate. This is a challenge that requires understanding of climate change, its trends, and participation of local communities and local decision-makers to come up with a strategy to adapt and mitigate climate change in their regions.
With the resources such as laptops, GPS, portable internet modems, we will be working with local communities, in the regions of Mongolia, most impacted by climate change to create community based GIS dataset on environmental vulnerabilities faced in forestry, pasture land, and water resources. The mapping with local herders and regional decision makers will contribute to best identify strategies and measures to preserve and protect the natural resources to ensure the resilience of nomadic communities.