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  • Chomba and Yusuf, Regional Ambassadors

How YouthMappers Are Contributing to 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Logo for "The Global Goals For Sustainable Development" To the left is a circle with various colored sections.

A lot of you might be wondering what exactly is YouthMappers, or better still how YouthMappers links with the UN SDGs. Questions like these do raise concerns especially when you try to picture the relationship between the sustainable development agenda to a group of students manually digitizing the earth. Fortunately, YouthMappers is more than that; our mission is way beyond digitization as a lot may think. We are a network of young leaders that are embracing a new leadership paradigm for better and sustainable ways of living. Founded in 2014, the network has grown remarkably to a total of 216 chapters in over 50 countries as of August 2020 and is still growing.

Drawing the network links with the UN Sustainable Development agendas, in September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Building on the principle of “leaving no one behind," the new agenda emphasizes a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all. The SDGs are set so that we can have safe and sound earth and it’s the responsibility of every government, civil society, private sector, and individuals to take part in order to achieve the 2030 agendas.

Logo for the SDGs depicting the 17 goals in colored grids with logos related to the SDG.

There are 17 SDGs that we need to meet by the year 2030; this is a humongous task that requires all hands, skills, and knowledge to be on the deck. YouthMappers as a network has been at the forefront of promoting and locally implementing the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development through its global network of YouthMappers' students and open data enthusiasts around the world, who we believe are the leaders of tomorrow. From around the world, we have been using maps and data to meet the needs of society and securing the needs of future generations through different types of projects in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Needless to say that we have also given voices to the voiceless through our collaboration with other organizations to bolster and amplify the effectiveness of their work. Today our efforts have gone viral worldwide, and we are known as one of the leading youth networks implementing and localizing the SDGs. We have empowered youth around the world at their universities with requisite skills to be the key drivers of change in their community, and the results are astounding.

Especially in line with the SDGs, we have contributed directly to some of the challenges of our time. In 2017 we collaborated with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) on the Mapping to End Malaria project in Southern Africa, together we contributed over 50,000 buildings edits in Zambia and Zimbabwe which are used for public health interventions. Following this campaign in 2018, there was an outbreak of Cholera disease in Zambia, and with our support, lot of places affected by the disease were mapped as a first step to proffering solutions, and contributing to the safeguarding of the well-being of people in Lusaka. More recently in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19, YouthMappers have been active adding health facilities to the map using This is an aim to make sure that more health facilities are added to the map so that people know where to go when they are in need of health services without struggling to find clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies.

Student sitting outside of a building (possible a house) looking at his phone, while an older gentlemen looks his way.

Data collection during YouthMappers malaria project

YouthMappers is also a gender-sensitive organization, and we are famous for encouraging female leadership. We understand that women empowerment is not only important, but integral to all dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development. We have been empowering and encouraging the participation of girls in mapping through our LetGirlsMap initiatives supporting women and girls issues, and ensuring equality in all YouthMappers activities. We uphold and embody this goal every year by awarding YouthMappers chapters with the most female engagements, and celebrate female excellence every year during the International Women's Day. An example of an outstanding LetGirlsMap project were the global Mapathons to end Female Genital Mutilation. Facilitated by Tanzania Development Trust, the Mapathons were part of a global effort to organize people to map areas where girls are at the risk of FGM. Female Genital Mutilation is a threat to girls in this part of the world, and the YouthMappers as usual were active, contributing map data to save young girls at risk of FGM.

We are also actively contributing to the SDGs GOAL 7: Affordable and clean energy. This goal is very important in all aspects, because once energy is equally distributed, affordable and clean, we can confidently boast of development and innovation diffusion. Stable and affordable energy can guarantee access to good healthcare, clean water, access to information and technology and even access to energy for cooking, thereby reducing the cutting of trees for charcoal, firewood which has the tendencies to lower greenhouse emissions. In line with this, YouthMappers chapters in Sierra Leone and researchers at Arizona State University have teamed up to map buildings and roads to support, and design power distribution networks. PowerGen Renewable Energy will use the data to decide on the implementation strategy of 45 new mini-grids under their U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) Mini-grid feasibility study. This data will also be used for electrification planning by the Ministry of Energy, national utilities, and other Sierra Leonean energy sector stakeholders. This will connect rural areas in the country to the grid and is hoped to improve their lives.

4 students mapping in a computer lab

YouthMappers mapping at The University of Zambia

Other projects we have worked on which demonstrate our leadership and contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals includes the USAID Feed the Future Soybean project. Done in collaboration with University of Cape Coast (UCC) YouthMappers are mapping soybean facilities in Kumasi and its environment. This lead to YouthMappers interviewing various processing facilities managers and feed mixers to understand the soybean value chain in Ghana to map it. This project contributes to the SDG 2 which advocates ending hunger, achieves food security, improved nutrition, and promotes sustainable agriculture. YouthMappers from Columbia chapter (GeoLab UdeA) have been mapping for urban sustainability with the SIGenBici projects which includes collaborative mapping with bicycle users for urban transportation development, and environmental management, with projects like COAST MAP for the resilience of coastal fishing communities and the conservation of coastal wetlands.

At YouthMappers, we know and understand that data is not just a resource that can be used to understand happenings in the community, but also proffer solutions to them. Therefore we strive to multiply our efforts and actions by empowering others to take actions, which is evident today in the growth of our network. With only 10 years left to achieve the SDGs, there is an increasing need for timely and accurate data, and through our global networks of chapters we are already embodying that responsibility. Therefore, we are the partners for the goal, and as we all continue to implement and localize the SDGs, we must remember one fundamental truth that most of the innovation and solutions will come from youth in networks such as ours, therefore we occupy a pivotal role in achieving the SDGs.

And as our map data continues to transform lives and uplift the society, we want to remind you that “We don’t just build maps, we build mappers."

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