Once a YouthMappers Member Always a YouthMappers Member
My name is Erick Tamba Mnyali, I joined the YouthMappers Network in the year 2019 (second-year student), when at the time I had little understanding of using geospatial technology in highlighting challenges and solutions in our local communities. After my second-semester Geographical Information System (GIS) course, I was introduced to YouthMappers by Gift Hope and Frank Anderson, who were the current SMCoSE YouthMappers chapter officers. In the same year (2019) SMCoSE YouthMappers chapter was certified and I was then introduced to the use of open-source tools, including OpenStreetMap with over 8 million users, where anyone can contribute and use contributed data for development purposes. With 295 university-based chapters and growing in more than 64 countries, any university student can join this network regardless of educational background. The eagerness to learn and get involved was key in developing my career with YouthMappers. Being in the YouthMappers network, there is always room for finding purposes as you get to know people and learn from them worldwide.
Being part of the early birds at SMCoSE YouthMappers chapter, we were always obligated to extend our knowledge through self-learning, volunteering by mapping projects on the Tasking Manager, and transferring our skills to our brothers and sisters in the university. It just felt amazing getting to learn and getting engaged in the chapter activities such as weekend training and Mapathons. Regardless of the determination to this course, there were always challenges such as low internet connectivity and limited access to computers. We used most of the resources libraries (TeachOSM) on the internet accessing learning materials on how to start mapping and using OpenStreetMap data for good.
In the year 2020, the level of commitment and engagement to the chapter activities was not promising. That came to our concern as early birds, and to deal with this challenge we proposed a field mini-project to demonstrate field mapping and keep members of the chapter more engaged. The field mini project took place during earth day on April 22, 2020. On this day, SMCoSE YouthMappers' aim was to map the tourism route by collecting points as students were hiking to the top of Uluguru Mountain in Morogoro municipality. We first conducted training on the tools that we used in collecting geo points and then after data collection that was done on the hiking event, we demonstrated data cleaning and analysis then uploaded the tourist route (to the Peak of Uluguru Mountain (Morningside) on OpenStreetMap. This activity also gave room for us to collaborate with other university groups such as Ewat, We_greenagers, Earthday_tanzania, Ibigngo, and Gybn_tanzania working on environmental conservation. From the collaborations, more members were not only joining the chapter but also became more determined to be involved in the chapter activities, here is the short video on the event.
SMCoSE YouthMappers during field mini-project, 2020 (mapping hiking route)
This experience also enabled us to submit a proposal for the field project program 2020, which was funded by YouthMappers. This project is aimed at flood vulnerability mapping in Morogoro municipality. Chapter members were introduced to the ideation process as well as the writing of the project proposal. We were delighted that our field project was accepted, and we were excited to engage the local community in this project.
It was when the field project was about to be initiated, most of the universities were on lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 did not only affect the timeline of the accepted project, but it was also hard for members in the chapter to stay connected. As we were not able to meet physically due to a whirlwind of changes that happened with the pandemic, we had to adapt to the new system-virtual training and Mapathons. Also, most of the students in the chapter were engaged in volunteering by mapping projects in the HOT tasking manager. This was not the same for all the members, and the major cause was inexperience in using the online platforms as well inadequate internet bundles to join the online sessions. It was then when started volunteering with Crowd2Map in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) by remotely mapping projects in the tasking manager.
Most members of the chapter (early birds) were graduating in the year 2020, and after almost four months on lockdown, finally, in June 2020, we resumed our final university semester. I remember this being the hardest semester since we had to submit our research projects reports in two months. One thing I am proud of being in the chapter is the unity we had in research writing, and I remember most of the finalists used open-source tools in data analysis and research presentations. I was lucky to receive mentorship after graduating and taken through research publication. Thanks to Dr. Silvia Materu and the chief editor at Tanzania journal of science, you can now read the published article here.
In the final year of field practical training, most of the chapter members also had a chance to participate in industrial training by the resilience academy, the field practical theme was urban forest management, where we participated in field data collection using open source tools such as KOBOtoolbox, PlantNet, and Two-point height.
SMCoSE YouthMappers during field practical training, 2020
After graduating, we were still enthusiastic about unlocking more opportunities for our chapter while transforming our skills in proposal writing and getting involved with YouthMappers in the university. While we were implementing our project titled “flood vulnerability mapping in Morogoro urban” we also had an opportunity to write a project proposal to OpenMapDevelopment Tanzania (OMDTZ). It was overwhelming to hear that we were granted to implement our proposed project. This project is ongoing, more details and activities are available on OpenStreetMap Wiki and our social media accounts Twitter and Instagram. With such success, we are always determined in helping university students in developing their careers with YouthMappers, by mentoring them and transferring our skills.
SMCoSE YouthMappers during the workshop after field data collection and validation
STATE OF THE MAP AND HOT VIRTUAL SUMMIT 2021
As a young researcher and recent graduate (2020) at Sokoine University of agriculture, it was an honor to showcase our field project program on behalf of Solomon Mahlangu College of Science an Education (SMCoSE) YouthMappers during the State of the Map Africa (19th -21st November 2021) and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap virtual summit (November 22). It was a great experience considering it was my first time on such a platform with a lot of experienced organizations in the OpenStreetMap (OSM) community. Nevertheless, we should always take advantage of such opportunities to hear and learn from others, it is from such courage, youth especially at universities- can develop skills that will help them shape their career goals.
From the call for participation, I was able to submit our work which was accepted by the State of the Map Africa and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. It was a great feeling to know that as YouthMappers we could also contribute to ideas that speak for the challenges and solutions in their communities. Preparing for the conference was another experience that introduced me to how to prepare online presentations and also interact virtually with organizers. It taught me how to be punctual in responding to emails and properly plan on how to prepare pitches and presentations from various sources and mentors. Catch up on my experience and lessons learned on my OpenStreetMap diary here and the presentation here.
Some of the screenshots during the SOTM Africa and HOT virtual summit 2021
For me, experiences from workshops and trainings have always been great teachers. YouthMappers has unlocked my communication, team working skills as well as leadership skills which have enabled me to interact, learn, and collaborate with people worldwide. With an educational background in environmental sciences and management, in the previous year (2021), I was among the co-founders of Geospatial Technology and Environment (GeoTE), a non-profit organization aiming to impact the community by achieving sustainable development goals through the use of geospatial technology skills. This initiative is working hand in hand with community organizations and groups through capacity building sessions, data analysis as well as research.
At the center is Mr. Gideon Sway, (GeoTE Coordinator) with SMCoSE YouthMappers alumnus during field project workshop.
Teaming with Frank Anderson (Alumni and Technical advisor at SMCoSE YouthMappers) we had a chance to hack challenges on sexual reproductive health hosted by Sahara Ventures, where our team received seed funds from our donors including UNFPA. Our solution, Digitization of family planning client referral card shall enhance access of family planning information to all people and prevent data loss. YouthMappers in every chapter can access such opportunities and more from workshops and training (Virtual or physical). When you come across any workshop, training, hackathon, mapathon, here is the code “1. Attend one, 2. connect, 3. learn, 4. grab a free dinner, 5. repeat the chain from number 1.”
Our team (Digitiza) during our final pitch deck
YouthMappers Regional Ambassadorship 2021/2022
It was a great honor to be appointed to serve as YouthMappers Regional Ambassador 2021/2022, it has always been my motive in helping my fellow youth through skill-sharing and getting connected worldwide. As regional ambassadors, we are obligated to raise students’ voices and support university YouthMappers chapters as well as affiliate existing groups or new university-based chapters to the YouthMappers network of 295 chapters and growing in more than 64 countries worldwide. This opportunity is one of many for youth out there trying to develop mapping skills as well as leadership skills.
From 2019 till now, I have come to understand that discipline is the magic word that stands above all the rest, it’s the only bridge between thoughts and accomplishment, discipline always attracts opportunities. “Once a YouthMappers member always a YouthMappers member,” a YouthMappers member in 2019 and proud to be a YouthMappers member in 2022. I aspire to be a good ancestor and see youth become part of a better world by mapping it. Are you? Whoever is reading this, I wish to connect with you via my email or WhatsApp mobile number.
About the Author:
Erick is a YouthMappers Alumni currently serving as YouthMappers Regional Ambassador 2021/2022. He is also a researcher and Geographical Information System specialist with three
years of experience in spatial and non-spatial data mapping, modeling, analysis, visualization and management.