Introducing YouthMappers and Open-Source Mapping at the Forestry Training Institute in Liberia
The Forestry Training Institute (FTI) in Liberia is a key technical school that offers two-year programs for forest rangers and other natural resource professionals in both government and non-government sectors. FTI is in Tubmanburg City, Bomi County, and has integrated GIS program into its curriculum. The GIS program is being coordinated by Mr. Torwon Yantay, who is also serving as the Faculty Advisor for the University of Liberia YouthMappers Chapter. Through Mr. Yantay, I was contacted by some of the students who wanted to know about YouthMappers, open-source mapping, how to use tools for data collection, and how to leverage the use of OSM and mapping to address forest management and community challenges.
Based on this, we scheduled a date, communicated our plans with the FTI Executive Director, and obtained a permit to use the computer lab. At 11:00 am on March 31, 2022, I arrived at FTI campus for a day’s introductory workshop. A total of 25 students attended including both males and females from the department of Commercial Forestry, Conservation, Community Forestry, and General Forestry. This was their first-time hearing about YouthMappers and OpenStreetMap (OSM), and they were highly interested in knowing how to contribute to OpenStreetMap, especially understanding how useful OSM is with regard to forest management. I started my presentation with a narrative of my journey to YouthMappers as well as the skills and accomplishments I have gained over the years. Afterward, I explained about the YouthMappers' network, vision, mission, and programs.
I introduced the web-based and mobile editors, but my focus was on the ID editor due to its simplicity of use. We did a walkthrough on how to set up user accounts with OpenStreetMap. However, most of the desktop computers had technical problems, so I encouraged the participants to use their mobile phones or personal laptops. By the end of the exercise, all the participants successfully created OSM accounts. Some of the participants who didn’t have email accounts were able to set up their email accounts. After the account creation, I taught them the basic process of mapping buildings, roads, and land use areas on the ID editor.
I also demonstrated how to navigate around and contribute to existing projects available on the HOT tasking manager platform and explained in general the concept and procedures of OSM validation.
Overall, the workshop was a success. I truly appreciate the participants for the level of cooperation and enthusiasm, their willingness to be introduced to open mapping, to know more about the YouthMappers network and how they can join the millions of volunteers contributing geospatial data to address developmental challenges.
Lastly, the students were concerned, and they recognized the need to acquire more mapping skills and participate in actual mapping projects. In that regard, we set up a WhatsApp chat room that will be used as a medium of communication, knowledge sharing, and preparation for future activities.
About the Author:
Christian is a self-motivated and energetic young man who is extremely passionate about leadership and positive influential change. He is a founding member and past president of the University of Liberia YouthMappers chapter; currently serving as a 2021-2022 YouthMappers Regional Ambassador.