Community Data for Improved Disaster Management and Urban Planning — Mwanza, Tanzania

By Hawa Adinani

Photo: Primoz Kovacic, Spatial Collective

Community generated data has proven to be the most reliable information that reflects the community’s situation and the challenges they face. Working with community members to collect data in their own neighborhood increases data reliability, validity and its ultimate use as the community believes in the data and has a sense of ownership.

Spatial Collective, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, and OpenMap Development Tanzania spent the last five months expanding its community mapping initiatives to Mwanza City. Working with 79 students from the Institute of Rural Development Planning (IRDP) and St. Augustine University of Tanzania we were able to collect a series of disaster-related data touching on flood-prone areas, rockfall incidents, urban exposure, and drainage infrastructure. The work focused on two municipalities: Nyamagana and Ilemela.

As we explained in one of our earlier posts Mwanza City is rapidly urbanizing with a lot of its growth concentrated in unplanned areas with approximately 81 percent of households situated in hazard-prone areas. Community knowledge was key to understanding the extent of these problems. For this reason, the consortium trained the students and communities on how to use cheap and widely available tools, such as mobile phones, GPS units, and satellite imagery to collect data on urban risks stemming from flooding and rockfalls.

Data Collected

Using a mixed-method approach consisting of digitizing the satellite imagery, mobile and GPS field data collection, community consultations, and stakeholder meetings, we were able to collect:

A screenshot of a map showing rockfall prone areas

Insights from community members and leaders

Below are some of the quotes taken directly from community members and leaders who were directly involved in the process of data collection.

“The data helps me as a community leader to represent the challenges with evidence to the higher authorities, I will especially like drainage data to be collected as it will show the real situation of the narrow drains in our subward.” Juma Kasudi, Mjumbe — Mwinuko subward

“The collected data will help in the warning system, enabling the communities to at least evacuate before flooding. We can also present the flooding issue to the district council as we have datasets that explain the whole situation. It’s now our duty as community leaders to educate our community that the data does not lead to house demolition or relocation but rather finding solutions”. Joseph Chui, Mjumbe — Kitangiri

“Kitangiri is one of the severely affected wards by floods and rockfalls. Schools are also affected, making me worried as a leader that one day students may get hurt or even die. I hope the data can reach the right actors and lead to the construction of permanent structures especially drainage systems”. Robert Charles, Chairman — Kitangiri A subward.

Outcomes of our engagement

Field data collection, Photo: Primoz Kovacic, Spatial Collective

Challenges during data collection

What is next?

After the mapping and curation of all datasets, we expect to hold a workshop with the potential data users to ensure they have the ability to access and use these data for informed decision making. The workshop will involve key stakeholders like community leaders, road agency authorities, regional disaster departments, etc.

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OpenMap Development Tanzania

Using Open Data, Open Source, and maps to solve different socio-economic challenges.