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  • Lindsey Bonsu || 2023 YouthMappers Leadership Fellow || University of Ghana

YouthMappers PGIS GHANA 2024 – Navrongo

Updated: Jul 5


Missing a flight to go and train students can be a hurdle. But when that can cause these students to lose the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills, it becomes a REAL HURDLE.

Let me walk you through the #YM2024GhanaPGISwokshop, Navrongo.

After weeks of planning the organization of the PGIS workshop in Navrongo, the time came for the 'main deal' - moving from Accra to go and train the YouthMappers up North. I almost missed my 6:30 am flight because I overslept. My only luck was that the flight itself was delayed - hurray!  


Navrongo is a town in the Upper East Region of Ghana with a population of around 25,000 people and has climatic temperatures rising as high as 109.4F /43°C (on 1st May 2024, the temperature rose to 111.2F/44°C by midafternoon). It is the home of the CKT-UTAS YouthMappers chapter. 


In a town with such a population (and being a smart YouthMapper with an awesome professor), navigation wasn't an issue. The issue was the HEAT! There was heat everywhere; solar radiation, heat from the ground, and human-generated heat from vehicles. The heat made short distances tiring to travel. However, this didn't deter our YouthMappers students from participating in the workshop. We had four chapters represented at the workshop in Navrongo. KNUST YouthMappers, TaceHub Mappers, UBIDS YouthMappers, and the host chapter, CKT-UTAS YouthMappers. These students commuted from near and far to participate in the training. Their eagerness and enthusiasm to acquire GIS skills and learn more about YouthMappers was plausible!

Unlike Accra which had ‘summertime’ temperatures and the UG Lab having air conditioners that worked, Navrongo was hot and with faulty air conditioners. We had to survive on the fans in the IT Lab. Because of this, the training schedule was very different from the other PGIS workshops conducted earlier. We would start training at 7 am and by noon, we disperse. The heat was not friendly; it was as though one was in a bakery all day long. Dr. Brent McCusker would say, ‘We boiled at breakfast, we baked at lunch, and we stewed at dinner. It was so hot the goats started melting! On the second day, we ate dust! The whole community was covered in dust, and it was so HOT as well. It never gets cold in Navrongo, ever!


On the first day of training, participants were introduced to OpenStreetMap, iD editor, and KoboCollect, and were also taught how to write good questions. The day ended with wide smiles on the faces of Kahoot winners. By day 2, some of the YouthMappers had deployed forms on Kobo for practice, contributed to the YouthMappers Burundi task with the iD editor and JOSM, and planned better ways of managing their chapter’s data.

To say participants of the Navrongo workshop enjoyed the ‘Gender in Participatory GIS’ session is an understatement; they loved it! The presentation took over 30 minutes because it turned into a wonderful conversation that everyone loved. In such a male-dominated space, it was surprising to hear wonderful outputs from these young men on ways of creating safe spaces for women and girls in the YouthMappers ecosystem – it was an ‘eye saw’! Equity and equality are their goals!

On day three, I was mesmerized and awed by how YouthMappers were creating their maps based on the training Dr. Brent provided and using the ‘free and open’ resources shared during the workshop. Of course, some faced challenges while creating their maps and got assistance. Besides, that is the whole idea of ‘training the trainers’; that they would be trained to also go and train their colleague YouthMappers in Ghana. But beyond their struggle, the efforts they put in challenging their capacities to do what they thought they couldn’t do made me glad! The ending part of the 3-day training in Navrongo is imprinted in my memory forever. Seeing some individuals who had no idea of what GIS was, and within 3days, those same individuals had so much knowledge in open-source software, and geospatial technology and could create their own maps gave me so much joy!

Group photos are always a thing for last days. But the fear of heat changes this norm. 

GHANA JOLLOF  (the best in the world)

Taking very good care of oneself is always important, especially in ‘another man’s land’. The best option for meals was ‘rice’ because you can’t trust that the local dishes would indeed taste good or that the local meals won’t end up meddling with your tummy. To be on the safer side, just go with ‘rice’. And I bet Dr. Brent was so cautious that he ate Jollof rice for 4 consecutive times in two days! In just two weeks, he had eaten enough Ghana Jollof such that, at the smell of Jollof in any part of the world, he would be able to differentiate if it was a Ghanaian Jollof or ‘one of the others’. And so, we can peacefully confer on him the name ‘Kwabena McCusker’!

…do not fall off!

The dominant means of transportation was the use of tricycles called Can Do but spelled as Kando. There was no such thing as ‘Uber’ in Navrongo. My brain always told me that: bad roads + bad tricycle riders = falling out of the tricycle. Because of this, positioning myself in the middle of the Kando was always a priority. I’d always squeeze myself up to properly fit in the middle such that there was enough space by my sides to accommodate two other people. On the days that I moved with Dr. Brent and Calvin, the middle was always my spot!


In a twinkle of an eye, my time in Navrongo had ended and I had to return home. The nagging was going to end, but the nostalgia, the experience, and the thought of accomplishment made me reminisce and love every bit of the experience. Upon my return, colleagues would ask, ‘Was it tiring’? I’d say ‘Yes’. But when they asked ‘Would you want to go to a less-endowed geographic location to organize such a capacity-building workshop and train YouthMappers students? I’d say ‘absolutely YES’, without hesitating. For me, it was not just about almost passing out in the heat or being cautious about falling off a tricycle, but more about imparting knowledge and skills and providing opportunities to these students who would otherwise not have such opportunities. And I'd definitely defy all odds to train more YouthMappers students because ‘Everywhere she goes, she makes a difference!’. 

The Author:

Lindsey Bonsu is the General Secretary of the University of Ghana YouthMappers and a 2023 Leadership Fellow.


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