Portmarnock Community School scoop awards in Manilla for #MapLesotho

As explained here four students from Portmarnock Community School were representing Ireland with their project Global Citizens Mapping the future. The project was the best in Ireland having won the Young Social Innovators prize this year and as national champion was automatically selected by Sage International to attend and compete in the World Cup in The Philippines.

The innovation side of it was technical, and based on the schools combined new skills from having learned how to use openstreetmap (specifically #MapLesotho), street image capturing using Mapillary and designing an emergency services phone application using bluemix with help from IBM in Mulhuddart, Fingal. The philantrophic side of the project was also very strong as all of these innovations were applied to Lesotho, where the school has a charitable involvement through Action Ireland Trust.

And the wonderful news is that they scooped the Sustainable Development Goal 11 award: “Making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. #MapLesotho certainly does contribute to identifying infrastructure gaps that help the cities and towns of Lesotho to be more resilient to climate change. Overall Portmarnock was ranked second in the competition to a very worthy heart sensor project from Canada.

What better way to relate the experience of these awards than to talk to hear the reaction of the students themselves shortly after winning.


The best part for me was meeting all the other teams. I feel happy that all of these countries have social responsibility and social enterprise as their vision for the future. I’ve made friends for life and am helping to change the world.


“The experience will be extremely useful to me, as I learned new things and learned a lot about the power of presenting your ideas and work to others . I think it is a skill we will all need.”


The highlight of all this was meeting Ndaba Mandela who is inspiring like his grandfather must have been. You would learn something from everything he says. I will definitely try to support anything he is involved in to improve life in Africa.


We met so many people who defy the stereotypes of their countries, that we ourselves felt at liberty to be ourselves and present our culture in a unique way and strive for our own personal development. 



Mappy Birthday #OpenStreetMap as #MapLesotho hits the #Lesotho Embassy Dublin

OpenStreetMap is now 12 years old, and the birthday is being celebrated at the Lesotho Embassy, Dublin. Of course, as usual everyone is mapping and OSM Ireland are participating. The opportunity to use the embassy as a mapping venue should be credited to his Excellency Paramente Phamotse, who is Ambassador to Ireland, but also the nordic countries. Paramente is a former Geography and Mathematics teacher, so openstreetmap is, … well…. right up his street.


Mapping Lesotho Style with Mokorotlo Hats


The Flag of the Kingdom of Lesotho flying in Dublin

This is not the only event happening today. Indeed there are seven other venues celebrating in the same way. The Copenhagen venue are going to synchronise with Dublin on a Google Hangout which is here. This will be focussed on Mapillary, and doing a bit of mapping using the 50,000 plus Mapillary images now available in the kingdom.

Dave Corley, himself responsible for 20,000 of these images, showed those in Dublin and Copenhagen how to use the Mapillary images to tag buildings and spot other public realm infrastructure not visible from satellite images.

Even better is the news that our colleagues from Teyatenaneng in Berea and the LSPP offices in MAseru joined us for the mapping and for a hangout.

It was a great day, and certainly one where some more richness was added to the map of Lesotho. If anyone else wants to see what we did please find it in the Maseru City or Berea tasks.

Diny and Tshedy at the Maseru LSPP offices



Portmarnock’s #MapLesotho Champions prepare to take Manilla by storm

Those Portmarnock kids are at it again, #MapLesotho is the rocket fuel to bring them to The Philippines in Asia.

As mentioned before they were national champions at the Young Social Innovators contest this year, beating off opposition from every corner of Ireland with the pitch, and purpose and track record of philanthropy to be the best of 450 projects in the prestigious school award.

Now as title holders of the Young Social Innovators of the Year 2016, Global Citizens – Mapping the Future who are from Portmarnock Community School, Dublin, will represent Ireland in the prestigious youth entrepreneur contest, the SAGE World Cup in Manila this week.


Press Call at T2 on Departure

Today they flew off on the first, and very long leg of their flight to the competition venue. Before leaving there was a press meeting, and then they rushed off to bring their message about Lesotho, Mapping and getting active with digital philanthropy. They say it their own way, and words on a blog can’t even capture the way that’s done, and done well as everyone wants to join in the mapping when they say it.

We are all very proud of them, win lose or any outcome at all they have taken what they believe in halfway around the world. Their School has probably not seen such an interpid bunch, especially ones that have travelled so far with their school blazers on, during the holidays!

The Deserted Village

While mapping near Mohale Dam today I came across a village with perhaps 100 huts, and 20 or more large animal kraals. Surrounding the village are disused fields we are currently tracing and tagging as “landuse=farmland”. The huts themselves are in ruins.

There is a poem by Oliver Goldsmith that I once had to learn titled “The Deserted Village”. It could be about anywhere in the world, there are deserted villages everywhere it would seem. The poem laments the collapse of a small rural place, its people, its economy, its buildings, …and ultimately its beauty. The poem paints modern society, and indirectly urbanisation as an evil, which prevents people from living the simpler village life.

…[extract from the “The Deserted Village”.

Teach erring man to spurn the rage of gain;

Teach him, that states of native strength possest,

Tho’ very poor, may still be very blest;

That trade’s proud empire hastes to swift decay,

As ocean sweeps the labour’d mole away;

While self-dependent power can time defy,

As rocks resist the billows and the sky.

The cause of the abandonment of villages in Lesotho are all the usual ones. Urbanisation is happening fast in the mountain kingdom. Less usual, the HIV crisis that hit Lesotho really did hit rural Lesotho harder than urban Lesotho. the impact was both in terms of infection rate and mortality. This led to a population flight from several villages, leaving some reduced in size and others not viable as settlements, and ultimately they were deserted. The visual evidence of both outcomes is to be seen everywhere on the satellite imagery for rural Lesotho. As we map rural villages we see almost perfectly circular Mekhoro shaped Kraals, which we mark as “barrier=wall”. Drawing it in openstreetmap it can be a closed way or an open way, depending on whether a gap is visible.

deserted village3

The circular Kraals were Mekhoros, as deserted residential buildings got reused as animal enclosures. Why build a new stone wall when an abandoned hut with its thatch gone will serve perfectly well for animals?

Lesotho needs balanced urban and rural development. The main threat perceived in the Land Use and Settlement Plan in the last decade was the diminution of the total quantity of agricultural land due, (especially) to unconstrained and uncontrolled sprawling residential development. However, another threat would be an insufficient number of rural people to farm the land.

Regarding the image, my suspicion here is that this specific deserted village was caused by the Highlands Dam projects. I can’t be too sure but my feeling is the village used to be called Ha Mohale Likalaneng.The village was partly flooded and partly isolated as the water level rose.

deserted village2

Typical Villages and their productive hinterlands

This adds to the complexity of Lesotho’s requirements for sustainable development. For good planning the kingdom needs to have sufficient urban density to provide infrastructure to urban layouts. On the other hand the dispersed rural population makes a big contribution to food supply, especially for this hungry urban population.
As for Goldsmith, his poem has long been dismissed as rustic romanticism, glossing over the actual challenges and difficulties of rural living. Eventually by developing further the spatial information in #MapLesotho the Government of the Kingdom may developed balanced approaches to planning that channel the urban, and preserve the rural. Key to this will be to avoid the view that urban and rural are opposites, not connected in their purpose, fortunes and outcomes.

#MapLesotho Month by the Numbers

This is a glance back at the month of June, where a special extra effort was made to take on the second wave of #MapLesotho mapping task.

25 mapping days in the month, including Saturdays and three overlapping days

12 different venues in Lesotho

82 Basotho Mappers played their part

31 new Basotho mappers recruited

51 crowdsourcers from various countries joined in

980,759 nodes created or modified, this is a 7% increase on the work before now

2,000,000 node woman, Tshedy hit the landmark on the 21st of June

266,312 nodes for team Quthing, Lesotho’s hottest mapping district

1,210 HOTOSM task manager tiles marked “done”







A surprise visitor at the End of #MapLesotho Month

The Basotho OpenStreetMap community composed of Planners, Surveyors and students gathered on the last day of June to finish off #MapLesotho month. The idea of mapping using a travelling high speed modem, ending in a party atmosphere in the capital city belongs to Quthing mapper Mahipi.


Mapping at the UNESCO Library

It was a hectic month where in the 30 days, 25 were spent mapping. A modem left in Maseru was loaded with credit made its way all around the country, …twice in fact. Among all that it got stuck in the Mountains of Thaba Tseka during a snow storm. However, the schedule got condensed and quite a lot of extra days were squeezed in on Saturdays and overlapping in the final week.


“De Reel Deal” Schedule

Looking at the month in the available statistics it would certainly appear that it was well worth every effort to organise the twenty five separate mapathons. Some mapathons were well attended, especially where people who had learned a little OSM had never had a proper one. Other mapathons were less well attended, with a few brave mappers left to carry the load for their district as others cancelled here and there. With an engagement target set for the training and engagement team the mapathons held this month saw the creation of approximately 40 new mappers.

The lovely stats made available by Pascal Neis show that Lesotho had between 8 and 26 mappers active in Lesotho, excluding sundays.



Qachas Map Crew

The final Mapathon was a bigger affair. Over thirty people participated, most of these seasoned mappers, and also relatively new ones who improved along the way. The mappers attending on this day all downloaded JOSM to boost their speed and variety. It kicked off after a welcome by Mahipi and then with Topollo Lesoli getting very excited indeed and speaking that special language of hers that no other Mosotho can understand. Also present was Mpaleng, who was trying to help her colleagues back at HQ in Mohale’s Hoek.




There was a presentation by Lesotho’s leading mapper on what the data being created can be used to do within the sphere of Planning. Tshedy’s abilities in extracting and re-analysing data in QGIS allow her to be one of a very small number of authoritative voices on the subject. Tshedy felt that new mappers should know why #MapLesotho exists, and she did her very best to explain all the planning matters that can be more easily solved with decent maps. Tshedy was one of five people in Lesotho who can use PostGis and SQL to take large amounts of data out of the OSM database.



Lineo, always helping

There was a major contribution about tagging delivered by the ever patient and ever present Lineo. At this stage it is right to recognise that nobody came near the contribution of Lineo to helping the mapathons. She attended and assisted new mappers at five of the mapathons. Without her safe hands several of these would have failed.


And then the surprise visitor arrived!! This was Honourable Minister for Local Government and Chieftainship Pontso Sekatle, who fresh from signing the Memorandum of Understanding with Fingal County Council and having been set up on OpenStreetMap by Colin McAndrew wanted to show her mapping skills to the Basotho OpenStreetMap community. The Minister was joined by The Principal Secretary Mme Panyane and the Commissioner for Lands Mme Lebeta.

All in all it was a great day for all concerned the Minister coming for the wrap up was a great surprise to everyone. So many jokes and laughter were shared all day, and of course a lot of mapping got done. #MapLesotho month is finished. Bring on July.


Minister Sekatle and the Maseru Mapathon participants close #MapLesotho month





Historic moment for #MapLesotho

Yesterday (21st June) at County Hall Swords in Ireland a new Memorandum of Understanding was signed extending the partnership of Fingal County Council and The Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho. This memorandum will allow a training team organised by Fingal County Council to go to Lesotho on two more occasions.


Hazel Craigie and Colin Broderick

In the presence of the Mayor, Councillor David O’Connor; His Excellency Paramente Phamotse Ambassador to Ireland; Fingal staff and volunteers of Action Ireland Trust a seminar was conducted which discussed how to move forward into the next phase of the relationship. Myself and Colin Broderick gave a presentation where #MapLesotho is right now.

Hazel Craigie, a Senior Planner in Fingal County Council gave a presentation on the Irish Planning system, focusing on how settlement planning works within the Local Area Planning process. This is a prelude to the Lesotho partners establishing if they wish to have a new Planning concept of settlement planning. In her presentation Hazel linked directly back for the need for #MapLesotho to complete the current phase of work, in order that the basic building blocks are there to move to an evidence driven system.

The signing took place in the afternoon, after some final speeches by the dignitaries. This was captured on live webcast here:


Honourable Minister Sekatle maps Qachas Nek

Today the Minister had the chance to follow up on an informal invitation yesterday as she visited Portmarnock Community School. Colin McAndrew and his school mates were able to show her how to map. What happened next is best put in his words.


” The Minister was very eager to learn, surprisingly very fast to master the tracing tools. She wanted to map her own village, including her own house and some roads. She was enthusiastic even after 30 minutes and stopped only because she was scheduled for another meeting. She wanted to stay, and delayed her departure until a few minutes after the scheduled time. From what I have seen of her she is passionate about getting #MapLesotho done, so that her Government can begin to deal with some really serious problems.”

#MapLesotho Month: Day 4, Mafeteng


The project modem reached Mafeteng on Friday evening after its busy day in Mohale’s Hoek. This time it was transported 43 kilometres north to Mafeteng by Rethabile, the Community Council Secretary. She handed over to Lehasa and Ithatz, who tested it on Sunday and updated their machines in readiness for the mapping to come.



Rethabile’s journey with the modem

Mafeteng has struggled to map with any frequency for reasons that we cannot always understand. However, the arrival of the modem allows everyone focus with a single purpose and their district map needs to be done in the same spirit.

Mafeteng has the smallest land area of the districts of Lesotho, however, what it lacks in size it makes up for in complexity. There is a mountainous “pan handle” of territory in the east of the district, which is isolated from the main landmass and reaches all the way to Semongkong.

The mapathon kicked off at 9.00 am with 5 mappers: Lehasa, Moliki, Ithatz, Mathe and Tlalane. Mappers are mostly still using ID editor in Mafeteng, which is fine so long as we use Osmose or Keepright afterwards to iron out bugs. An intense morning was followed by a productive afternoon, and with a little crowdsource help from Colin McAndrew, Tshedy and DeBigC the mapping reached 4%.


Mapping in Mafeteng: Moliki, Mathe, Ithatz and Hazy

4% done, a good start is half the work

4% done, a good start is half the work

The modem left Mafeteng just before the end of the working day with Tlalane, who has now delivered it to Maseru. Mafeteng has quite a bit of catching up to do, with some of the mapping now almost three years old there #MapLesotho may already be needing to think about the update cycle.

#MapLesotho phase 2 begins

It’s all too exciting!

Yesterday evening #MapLesotho DaCorr launched another eleven tasks on HOTOSM. These tasks match perfectly the ten districts of Lesotho, with a task for Maseru City being the eleventh.


Taking Buildings to a higher quality level

Three things drive the mapping tasks. of course it is designed to do what is orthodox in improving from a basemap. But it also has a to find unmapped things and improve the tracing significantly. Finally there are a number of items that will drive forward the foundation of settlement  planning in Lesotho.

In the first phase a lot of buildings were skipped over in the rural mapping as they were optional in the task instructions.


On this last point there is an initiative to apply a methodology to mark the areas of human settlement on all scales. This will help enormously to start with the calculations of built up area and density, rather than calculating from known sizes of districts and community council areas. This is a big help to Lesotho’s Planners. They can see low densities and try to earmark those places to meet demand for land, rather than allowing the land take to constantly and unsustainably sprawl out, at the expense of Agriculture.


Marking out residential areas to assist settlement planning


In order to kick-start this new phase the OSM community in Lesotho means to pass a modem clockwise around the country starting on the 1st June and finishing on the 30th.


Schedule for June Mapping


A schedule was developed to maximise access to the Modem. Its like a big relay race, with gatherings in the district camp-towns and of course Maseru.

Watch out for the tasks on the hotosm projects list. We have Quthing, Mohale’s Hoek, Mafeteng, Maseru City, Maseru District, Berea, Leribe, Buthe-Botha, Mokhotlong, Thaba Tseka, and Qacha’s Nek. Also watch out for #MapLesotho tweets in June as the Modem travels around the mountain Kingdom.

#MapLesotho and Mapillary victory for Portmarnock kids

Last year Portmarnock Community College students went to the Young Social Innovators conference and spoke about their mapping, and won a category prize.

This year the kids re-entered armed with an enhanced proposition. They could tell of much more mapping and the 24 hour mapathon in their school last December. They could talk of using
mobile applications like #Mapiĺlary to capture useful data to enhance the map. They could also speak of the mobile phone application they are designing with the help of the IBM design team that will help people access emergency services faster.

Here is the official video from the YSI competition.


The winning team who made the pitch

This year they won the Young Social Innovators competition outright. The result was announced last week, and has received national media attention for #MapLesotho.


Colin and Ravi on Newstalk

Looking at it the kids are showing how far technology can go to make the lives of people better in the developing world. Well done to students, teachers, action Ireland Trust and Fingal County Council.