Tracing OpenStreetMap data in the Sahel

April 02 2012 by Nate Smith

We just finished a three day sprint of OpenStreetMap tracing, adding critical features to the main capitals in the Sahel region of West Africa. This is in response to a new food security alert issued last week from Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) for the Sahel. Currently five countries are in danger of famine due to drought and food security conditions - Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad.

OpenStreetMap is a critical resource in disaster response, particularly in this part of the world where current map data is often lacking. In this sprint, we focused our efforts on adding data to OpenStreetMap for capitals in the five at-risk countries.

Hitting capitals first

We’ve added road data to the capitals using satellite imagery. We are working to receive higher-resolution imagery for critical areas outside of the capitals, and are planning another tracing sprint once that is available. Here are some of the results of the work we’ve completed so far.

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Within the capital of Burkina Faso, we’ve increased detail in the roads and paths in the outskirts of the city.

You can see many areas around the city have informal road tracks.

Bamako, Mali
Areas that weren’t on the map before are now on the map.

Facilitating data sharing between organizations

We’re also working to boost the transportation networks and place data within OpenStreetMap in the Sahel region to facilitate data sharing between organizations. All of this tracing work is being done in conjunction with other data coordination activities in the region. Having a common operating picture is critical for the international community to respond to early warnings.

We’re just kicking this effort off. The mapping team - Dan Wood, Chad Lawlis, Maya Richman, and Ruben Lopez Mendoza - have done incredible work during this first sprint. Join us in our public github repo to contribute and give feedback. We’re tracking our progress and listing out the priority areas of where we’ll be tracing in the wiki page.