#MapLesotho - the end game comes into sight

02 July 2019 | DeBigC

The #MapLesotho project is at an end. Well… sort of, … this needs some explanation.

Lesotho is Africa’s most densely mapped nation. While there are obviously areas where there may be gaps, and as time goes by newly constructed built features to add to the map, compared to other parts of the developing world Lesotho has base mapping that they can all envy. This applies to detail, consistency and quality. One can say that it is mapped to a mature level on openstreetmap. How all this was done is documented here, on the osm wiki.

Even if nobody outside Lesotho cared about how well up to date all this mapping is there are enough well skilled local people who were trained by Fingal County Council’s team over 4 visits to be confident that the open source mapping will be kept up to date. That’s not to say that the huge contribution of almost 1200 crowdsourced openstreetmappers wasn’t valuable to get to this point. Without it we wouldn’t have got it done, and not done as well.

The way in which it was mapped took careful consideration. We inherited all of the tagging grammers of openstreetmap, and deployed those with a few localisms and plenty of local knowledge. However, the project was designed for both landuse and physical planning as we mapped human settlements in dizzying detail, and marked out the main landuses and land cover. We did all this for a reason, which was to create a resource to make maps and produce evidence for a day in the future where the mountain kingdom could have an evidence-based planning system.

That day has arrived. With the support of Fingal County Council, Action Ireland Trust and the Ministry for Local Government and Chieftainship an experienced planner called Bruce McCormack arrived in Lesotho in February. Bruce has rapidly met with all the Ministers of Government who have a spatial brief (most of them do), and looked at what parameters of co-ordination and National Spatial Strategy would bring. Bruce has also explored how area planning and land management would be enhanced by new regulations and practices. There is now a proposal before Government that will allow work on this to start. If that gets the go-ahead Lesotho will leap forward in terms of care for the environment, Government co-ordination, and efficient urban design.

What is most exciting about this is that the huge wealth of openstreetmap data created by #MapLesotho will be used to support decisions of large scale and local scale. And even more exciting is the prospect that the energised handful of Basotho who cast aside their cynicism and skepticism and helped that project will see their work banked and used to drive the development of their homeland forwards. A national spatial strategy is a “must have” for a country trying to establish a planning system. Lesotho can catch up on other progressive African nations who have already brought Planning into the core of what Government does and how development is managed.

Of course, #MapLesotho isn’t at an end. Mappers can, and should still seek out small errors and add more details for a greater number of endusers in Lesotho can benefit. But they can do this in the knowledge that the mappping in Lesotho that they are contributing to is shaping the future of an African nation.

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