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!

New Stats Dashboard for #MapLesotho – a review

There is a new site created by Colin Broderick from the Fingal training team. This shows a number of features that measure progress, or help us to map. To summarise this portal site has a  number of features showing stats and progress maps for #MapLesotho.

On the dashboard we first see the #MapLesotho blog widget that shows all these blogs. The blogs give a clear picture of what #MapLesotho is all about, as well as different side dishes… about technology and geography and planning.

Scrolling down on the dashboard there are 5 more features:

1. The Leaderboard – showing maplesotho league table since February 2015. This is good for an “all time” picture. However, it excludes a lot of mapping done in 2014 not showing what those involved did.

Screenshot_2016-07-27-05-22-48-12. Since February – this is showing the since the beardies left this year.. it is good to see who is currently engaging since the beardies Ciáran, Dave and Colin left in February 2016.Five million edits in 6 months!!


3.The Progress Map is very cool. Its a map showing in colour codes we have in the tiles done and tiles validated on all the districts. It feeds off the task manager, but needs a hard reset every once in a while or you miss the latest.



4.Maseru aerial imagery is useful in ID if you are involved in the Maseru City task and using the ID editor. I use JOSM and I havent figured out how to use this LSPP data.



5. Another Rusty special is the Lesotho Landuse Classification System for spatial planning which is also updated weekly based on landuses we create in ooenstreetmap.


How can Rusty improve this? Well he could put in a few links to the vizualising things to look up to see your mapping. These things are scattered out there but I like the site P. Neis has developed.

Thank you Rusty for dedicating your precious time to make this tool for MapLesotho. We appreciate what you are doing for the mountain kingdom. We need to understand our efforts on a group and individual basis.

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.

2968ad03-0643-47dd-b156-98f2efa5cd38 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.

schedule_25 “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…

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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





QN Mapaholics at #MapLesotho

Mapping, ….food for the soul. The 27th and the 28th days of June 2016, were the two dates set for mapping task #1942 #MapLesotho – Qacha’s Nek Detailed District Mapping. So we Qacha’s Nek mappers hit open street map and showed much dedication towards mapping our task. There are 600+ tiles and we have 180 of them done now. We need to meet regularly if we are to finish by the end of this year.



Stanley Makhanya in silouette mapping in the red room

This was seen when we applied all of our learned techniques, bearing in mind the balance needed between speed and quality since they were able to achieve at least 16% of the district in those two days with the smile across their faces and heads nodding in rhythm to the beats of hip-hop music playing from Stanley Makhanya’s laptop. Moving upwards from the 12% that was already mapped, now 28% of the district is mapped.


QN mappers doing what we do best

As QN Mappers we would like to give a special thanks to the following awesome individuals DeBigC and “Her Majesty”, Queen Tshedy for lending a hand. Thanks to DeBigC again who tirelessly encouraged our team during throughout journey. Also it was nice to get #HotOSM help from Andrew Buck who did 9 tiles while we slept!

We again promise to continue at this rate till the whole district is completely covered because mapping is like the craving and or the addiction you will not be able to overcome. On a serious note we know the mapping we do now is data for us as planners to use later. I have learned how to use SQL in PostGIS and I know good tidy tracing and accurate tagging let’s me extract data with confidence. That’s why quality is key.

June mapping days 15 and 16: Land Survey team doing it for #MapLesotho


“Ten Districts and one City”…. so we being the Land Survey and Physical Planning Division (LSPP) of the Ministry we chose Maseru City, which is this task:


MASERU CITY task #1944

On Thursday the 23rd June,  #MapLesotho training commenced with training on the basic editing tools on ID editor. We used that one before. This was done on the first part of the day. The LSPP team seemed to learn fast, so much that after lunch an introduction was done in JOSM. We agreed with the trainers Lineo Mothae and Tshedy Thobei that we will work on grasping the tools the first day and we will map intensively on the second day.

Come the second day and we mapped and mapped and it was faster. We managed to move from the 6% that was there on the first day to 17%.

The other members of the team who were not able to attend this training because they were on another assignment, joined us just before knock off because they felt they missed out in the mapping and fun these two days.

In these two days there was so much fun. We know we are helping our country and lifting up our profession. Our Minister is enabling us to get more partnership and expertise from our friends in Fingal. We are are very “mappy” to do this until the job is done and the map is perfect.




Day 13-14 of #MapLesotho Leribe

Leribe held its second mapathon after the first one in August 2015, which is a long time ago now. The mapathon was held at Hlotse Urban council on the 20th and 21st of June 2016. Day one was basically understanding the instructions of the task and helping each other to re-set their passwords and have everyone ready to start mapping. In essence we were all set for mapping at 14:00 and with the 11 community councils and 2 urban councils; we agreed they each one of us should focus on their own council to make it easier and more accurate.

On the second day; mapping became easier as most of us were getting used to other mapping tools. In Leribe most Assistant Physical Planners use ID editor while only two namely Tsholo and Seisa use JOSM and although we’ve mapped just a bit of our district, we have just started and won’t stop until Leribe is all yellow and ultimately green.


Leribe, now 3% done

Much appreciation to the Fingal County Council for continued support. We were glad to hear that the Memorandum of Understand will live longer.