The project ‘Engaging Local Citizens to Map Environmental, Agriculture and Food Security Data’ explores the use of free and open infrastructure of OpenStreetMap (OSM) to map data related to environment, agriculture, and food security. The project draws on local knowledge to collect information and develops local capacity. By bringing crowd sourcing and open mapping technologies to villages, the project promotes villagers’ geospatial literacy, encourages them to participate in citizen science, and enhances active citizenship.
The project uses OSM to map:
- Brick kilns and their attributes inside the Kathmandu Valley to monitor air pollution
- Agriculture and food security data in three village development committees (VDCs) outside the Kathmandu Valley
For mapping, the project engaged local citizens who were trained on how to use mobile application to collect data. For data collection in the VDCs, the project partnered with the National Association of Small Farmers’ Cooperatives. Other key partners include local schools and colleges, local government, the Ministry of Agriculture, agriculture suppliers and wholesalers. By partnering with local organizations, the project ensured the sustainability of data collection.
“People think that farmers and villagers cannot use new technology. In this project, we observed several instances of farmers using new technologies. I was amazed to see a deeply engaged farmer in Bajrabarahi VDC who was creating a road network in his ward using remote-sensing imagery.”
- Nirab Pudasaini, Kathmandu Living Labs
The systems developed by the project have already been deployed, visit: www.openstreetmap.org to access the maps. To search for VDCs involved in the project, type: ‘Bajrabarahi’, ‘Manahari’ and ‘Padampur’ in search bar. Additionally, custom visualizations have been developed for the environmental and agricultural data, see http://kathmandulivinglabs.org/mapbrickkiln/ and www.khetibali.com. Mobile app visualization for brick kilns can be accessed on Google Play Store at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=map.kll.org.brickkilnnew&hl=en.
The data maps on the environment, food security and brick kilns are free and publicly accessible. Mapping and visualizing of agriculture and food security data at the community level can be used by agriculture entrepreneurs, decision makers and other interested parties to compare and identify existing versus promising production pockets. Similarly, brick kiln maps can be used by those working in the field of air pollution. As the technology requires community members to map and monitor their local community, it encourages active citizenship and has the potential to strengthen democratic participation as well.
The project trained community members including school teachers, students, farmers, members of small farmers’ cooperatives, agriculture entrepreneurs from three project VDCs. This training puts cutting-edge mobile and crowd sourcing technology into the hands of youths and farmers, enabling them to explore, use, and learn about these technologies. The project has also provided a common platform for people from different VDCs to interact with each other. In addition to digital literacy, the project was able to introduce geospatial literacy among the rural population.
Although the project focused on agriculture and food security, different stakeholders have expressed their interest to use the apps in other sectors. The VDC secretary in the study site are interested in creating VDC profile, Likewise, members of community forestry user groups are interested in mapping forest cover and health posts want to collect data on health services using the app. Large part of the data is common in all these applications and the data sharing mechanism saves a lot of resources.
Besides, improving cost-effective collection and sharing of data among different stakeholders, the project is also exploring revenue generation models for sustainability in the long run. The project is using free and open-source tools. Hence, there are no major cost implications for maintaining the data visualization systems and the data.
Outcome of the project has been implemented in three VDCs, works are underway to upscale and cover larger geographic areas. The National Association of Small Farmers’ Cooperatives has indicated their interest in connecting the project to 600 small farmers’ cooperatives throughout the country. Government Agencies are also interested in the project as it provides information base for evidence-based planning and decision making.
“By engaging local citizens, capitalizing on their local knowledge and activating their desire to map their local communities, we can map Nepal within a short time, instead of decades.”
- Nama Raj Budhathoki, Kathmandu Living Labs
- National Association of Small Farmers’ Cooperatives
- Local schools and colleges
- Local government
- Ministry of Agriculture
- Agriculture suppliers and wholesalers