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  • Oniosun Temidayo Isaiah, YouthMappers Fellow

Capitalizing on Maps to Achieve SDG Goals in Africa

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth…these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water security, energy shortages, global health, food security and women empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions to all”

- Ban Ki-moon

At the sustainable development summit on 25 September 2015, UN Member states adopted the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, which includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030. We are in a global village and it is important for us to come together to solve major problems facing our co-existence and survival. In response to this, YouthMappers emphasizes the creation and utilization of open data and open source software for geographic information directly related to development objectives in unmapped places of the world where the US Agency for International Development (USAID) works to end extreme poverty.

“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination”.

- Earl Nightingale

Many of the problems African nations face could be addressed with better information — and space adds an important dimension to this. Spatial data can help deal with issues such as desertification, water resources, locust plagues, planning and urban development, and monitoring the latter's impact on biodiversity. One major problem relates to environmental sanitation. According to the Active Times, out of the World’s 25 dirtiest cities, 16 of these are from several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. This led to the creation and initiation of the “Urban Waste Mapping” project in one of the YouthMappers chapters in Akure, Nigeria.

“By visualizing information, we turn it into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes: a sort of information map. And when you're lost in information, an information map is kind of useful”.

- David McCandless

Urban waste is a major threat to the global environment today and it is one of the causes of flooding and airborne diseases. As the world’s population continues to grow, there is an increase in commercial and residential infrastructure development, which has a negative impact on the environment if not properly planned, monitored, and maintained. We know there is trash lying around, but in order to clean it up, we first have to get a clear picture of the situation. Mapping can give us the exact location, amount, and type of garbage; capitalizing on remote sensing data and geological tools can enable us identify suitable locations for dumping sites. This is essential to organize the logistics and the handling of clean up by the Government, other agencies and NGOs. After it is gone, this data is great for tracking our progress, and keeping tabs on these dump sites for the future.

“The environment is everything that isn’t me”

– Albert Einstein

Perhaps the most important reason to map is to share the message. If seeing is believing, then looking at a virtual map of overflowing trash sites will help open our eyes to the problem and , hopefully, inspire people around to join us and do something about it.

The YouthMappers chapter of the Federal University of Technology, Akure decided to initiate a project focused on identifying illegal dumping sites in the city. About 40 volunteer mappers are working on the project, mapping and collecting necessary data. KoboToolBox is used to collect data from the field, data collected include: picture of the dump site, coordinate, site description, type of waste (special waste, liquid waste, hazardous waste, restricted solid waste, general solid waste [Putrescible], general solid waste [Non-Putrescible]), proximity to residentials or water bodies (<10m, 10-30m, 30-80m, 80-150m, >150m), size of site and accessibility (either motorable or not). Navigation through the city for data collection is being done using Motorcycle/Bodaboda/Okada while the processed information will be made available openly on Umap.

One major issue faced during mapping involved residents of some areas being concerned about why we are taking pictures and collecting data at each site. This provides a good opportunity for environmental outreach, sensitizing people of why they need to keep their environment neat and keep away from illegal dumping of refuse. The project output will be presented to the state government, ministry of environment, and NGOs working in waste management.

And because at YouthMappers, we don’t just build maps, we build mappers; when this project is completed, it will be transposed to other cities towards environmental sanitation. This addresses goal 3 good health and wellbeing), 6 (clean water and sanitation), 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and 13 (climate change) among other SDG goals.

“Environmental pollution is an incurable disease. It can only be prevented."

- Barry Commoner

ONIOSUN TEMIDAYO ISAIAH is a YouthMappers fellow from Nigeria. He is a graduate of Meteorology from the Federal University of Technology, Akure and a Research Scientist with the University Centre for Space Research and Applications. As the pioneer president of the University Space Club/YouthMappers chapter, he now mentors undergraduate students in capitalizing on web-based open geospatial technologies. He writes computer code at leisure.

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