Open Street Mapping of Mathare, December 2010

This is a visual representation of the amount of data which was collected in two days of field work and put into OSM in two days of editing in December 2010. Points and lines were collected using GPS units and village boudaries were digitized over satellite imagery.

Visual representation of OSM data collected and edited in December 2010 in Mathare
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This belongs to Mathare!

Mike: “Karibu Huruma. You want some tea?” Me: “Is it safe here?” Mike: “Don’t worry, you’re very safe here!”


In order to encourage participation of as many residents of Mathare as possible, we’re continuing with a rotating venues approach. We are trying to get different groups to host us so we can be closer to the communities, where the participants then explain in detail to all interested parties, from elders to children to grandmothers, what they’re doing, why we’re there and why there are some people walking around with strange telephones (GPS units). We also want to enable our participants to walk to the trainings and not spend their money on public transportation.

Working from different parts of Mathare has another importance: on-site discussion around the biggest needs of the particular community leads to on-site recognition of the particular problem. This then leads to determining what exactly they want on the map, what they would need the map for, and therefore what the focus should be. All this information will be crucial in making good thematic maps which will show the biggest and most immediate needs of the particular area.

Trainings in Huruma

Resident: “People rarely come to these areas; we don’t get any attention like Kibera does; NGOs don’t come here and don’t care about this place; Mathare is very poor; there is almost no development. We say United Nations is for the people who work there, not for us. Aren’t you afraid?” Me: “Should I be?” Resident: “Not if you’re with this crew. That’s very good what you’re doing!”

I still feel afraid every time I step out of the cab with 4 computers and 10 GPS units that someone will knock me over the head with a rock. However, they never let me out of their sight. Even when I go to the toilet someone is standing in front of the door. I feel they are keeping a close eye on us and the programs. They’ve had too many disappointments with projects that failed or didn’t live up to their expectations. We understand these issues and are working hard in Kibera to recognize our mistakes and make sure that we live up to the expectations of our team there (more on this coming soon).

So Jamie and I, with advice from Sammy from Plan Kenya and Simon from Ngoza Njia – Community Development Center, approached Mathare by taking a massive amount of responsibility from our shoulders and handing over most of the decision making to Mathare residents. It’s them who decide what they want on the map, for what purpose they want to use the map, what they want to document with video, where the next venue should be, who to invite to public discussions, how to engage other people to participate, how to make these tools useful to as many as possible etc. From the start we presented our programs as Mathare’s own programs, something no one can dictate or tell them what to do with it. We can already see it and they’re taking ownership. The conversation is often like this, resident: “So you’re going to map all the CBOs in the community?” Me: “I don’t know, you tell me!”


Last week (24. Jan – 30. Jan) we worked in 3 locations in Mathare. The mappers were focusing on the eastern part of Mathare – Huruma, Kiamaiko, New Mathare and Mathare Nort. We were hosted by  Ngoza Njia – Community Development Center situated between Huruma B and Kiamaiko. From there the teams spread out and mapped the hell out of Huruma. We collected approximately 200 points in two hours of field work.

On Thursday we were hosted by Vision Youth Group in Huruma – Ngei1 area, where we edited the data collected on the previous day.

Vision Youth Group

On Friday we digitized over satellite imagery as a part of learning different techniques in mapping. We were hosted by Community Transformers in Mathare No10. I’m particulerly proud of Huruma girls (and one man) who digitized a big chunk of Huruma (Kaimaiko area) and were listening to every advice with their full attention.

Huruma Girls (and a man)

Video had some technical problems when trying to edit videos in Mathare No1o at Community Transformers on Wednesday and Thursday. But with the passion and help from a videographer Nathaniel Canuel they will make it next week.

And there is exiting news for the Voice of Mathare: We’re getting there!

I should finish by saying: “No I’m not afraid. As long as Mathare folks know that this is their program nothing will happen to me when I’m roaming through the streets with all that equipment” But just in case, they are watching closely, I can feel it!

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Mathare is still there after the New Year

It’s been three weeks since the New Year when everybody in Kenya (at least who can afford) travels to shambaland. We’ve been doing trainings for the past two weeks – altogether 6 days of mapping and 2 days of video.

The map needed (and still does) more information in order to become a good base map for further thematic mapping which will eventually fill in the remaining empty spots (remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day and the map won’t be either – it’ll take 4 months). Here’s the map by the way.

Our main goal is not the map itself! It’s the empowered youths and community members equipped with knowledge and data about their community. As Simon said for Al Jazeera: ”By knowing what we have we will be in a position to engage our government!” So, in order to better control and supervise the masses of the would-be mappers and reporters from Mathare and our trainers-trainees from Kibera, we divided Mathare into 3 parts. West is villages 1, 2, 3A, 3B, Kosovo and 4B, Central is Mathare No 10, 3C, Thayu, Mabatini, Mashimoni and Mathare 4A, and East is Huruma with all sub entities, New Mathare, Kiamaiko and Mathare North. Yea, it’s a big place!


The next thing we did was listen to the ever-present, ever-wise voice of the community – Simon Kokoyo (who, in order to amplify the community’s voices, started a blog which is written by Mathare residents called – who said we should rotate or move our venues all over Mathare in order to get the community’s support and make it easier for people to walk to the trainings.

Community Members

The second week of trainings we held mapping trainings at Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group/Staken at Mlango Kubwa in village 1 which is run by another well known and respected community member Kaka and at Community Transformers. Video trainings were held one day at Community Transformers and one day out in the field.


To help plan the video trainings we invited two established people, both well known in Mathare: Videographer Nathaniel Canuel and a reporter Wairimu Gitau. They’ve structured the trainings in a way to maximize the effect and tell the stories relevant to Mathare. They’ve divided members into 4 teams and talked about the ideas for the videos to be made. They’ve selected 4 ideas which could be done in a day of shooting and they’ve come up with:
– Lack of toilets
– Road accidents or bad road conditions
– Lack of playgrounds for children
– Broken sewage lines
Next week (24. Jan – 30.Jan) they will talk about which footage was good and which was bad and the folks will learn how to edit the data selected. Can’t wait!

Nathaniel taking a nap exhausted after the whole day of video footage collection

Our third program Voice of Mathare is still under construction (web stuff).

Exciting times in Mathare! There’ll be a storm of activity in Kibera soon, so stay tuned!

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Map Mathare – Second week of training

The second week of data collection and trainings in mapping and video editing techniques is behind us. We decided we’ll hold map editing separately from video editing because of the overwhelmingly large numbers of people who showed interest in being trained.

The data editing in OSM session was held on Tuesday, 14.12.2010. Turnout was good as always, although some people from one or two villages did not turn up (I guess they’ll do the work on some other occasion). We only edited points as it would take too much time if we tried to edit the tracks as well. The tracks will be edited separately.

  • People had different skills as usual
  • Drawing tracks is a bigger challenge than editing points
  • We have to separate people into smaller groups, so we’ll have to rethink our strategy (trainings will have to happen on different days, in morning and afternoon hours, all three programs separately – this is because we need to create smaller teams so the trainings are more efficient)

All was good in the end, some of Mathare got mapped and hopefully some people got excited.

Video and voice trainings were on Wednesday, 15.12.2010. Around 15 people showed up for video in the morning session. No one came for the afternoon session (probably because everybody came in the morning). Kibera News Network guys did a good training and managed to produce two short video reports about A Bicycle Repair Man and Mathare Sewage.
Nobody showed up for voice (probably because people weren’t directly called and most of them have been to the mapping and video trainings). So Sande (second from top to bottom) from Voice of Kibera and I talked about merging mapping and voice trainings. First the trainees would receive training in GPS data collection and editing and after every session they would receive Voice training as well – since it’s a kind of mapping anyway, that way we’ll recruit more members to Voice.

The first two weeks were sort of a sample of what we’re offering. The real trainings and work will start in the year of 2011. We’ll have to figure out how to deal with large numbers. I sense they might shrink with time, but we’ll see.

For you to enjoy, here’s the move edited by Joe from Kibera News Network and Jeff Mohammed from Mathare about Kibera teams training Mathare: Map Kibera presents Map Mathare.

See you in the New Year. Exciting things are coming up!

Or as Jeff would say: Everything is cool, buda!

Jeff Mohammed
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Digitizing Village Boundaries of Mathare

The biggest slums in Nairobi (like Kibera and Mathare) usually consist of different villages. That is why before we started working in Mathare we had to determine where these villages are located.

This was/is important for many reasons:

  • Determining the area. By locating the villages of the slum we outlined the area of Mathare.
  • Planning purposes. We use these villages to plan how different teams will operate. The idea is that each team maps its own village, bringing me to the next important thing:
  • Each village needs to be represented. A person coming from a certain area knows that area best.
  • And the last but not least – security. There is no way that a person, specially coming from outside, can freely walk the streets of Mathare.

For the purpose of determining the village boundaries we printed out the satellite imagery of Mathare, which was donated to us by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Mathare Printed Satellite Imagery

After that I gave the satellite imagery to Simon Kokoyo form COOPI and Reality Tested Youth Program. He walked around the slum and talked to elders, who helped him determine the village boundaries of the slum by drawing them on the printed satellite imagery.

Drawn villages of Mathare

I uploaded the satellite imagery into JOSM and digitized the boundaries according to the drawn image.

Digitizing in Java OpenStreetMap Editor

And HERE are the villages of Mathare and Mathare slum area in OpenStreetMap – the borders have already changed couple of times 🙂

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Map Mathare – The Beginning

We started the long awaited Map Mathare on Monday, 6th December, 2010.

Before that we had a forum on Wednesday, 1st December, where teams from Kibera presented what they did and talked about the plans for Map Mathare. The forum was a success as around 130 people showed up and the response we got made us believe it’s possible.

Stands for each of the programs
Simon Kokoyo explaining the importance of Map Mathare

Sailing on the success of the forum we stepped into Mathare as said on the 6th. Each team presented, this time about more theoretical approaches to each of the three programs. Even though only 5 people showed on time we ended up (thanks to Simon Kokoyo) with 46 participants on the first day. I had a hunch we might see some of their friends the next day.

Steve from Kibera News Network in action

And I was right as around 70 people showed up on Tuesday, 7th December, for the practical part – GPS and video data collection. The most surprising of all? Everybody was on time! We had 15 people from Kibera and two helpers from Mukuru slum to handle the swarming population of would-be mappers and reporters. We divided people into teams representing different villages of Mathare and sent them out on a data collection spree. The day went smoothly except for one incident where a team from Mathare Village 1 was attacked by a drunken man but the team members from Village 1 managed to control the man.

Wednesday, 8th of December, was reserved for data editing but an unfortunate thing happened – a blackout. So instead of having almost 100 people waiting around for the generator to be set up we sent everybody out to the field again to collect more data.

Joe from Kibera News Network (white cap) in action

GPS data collected the first week:

Mathare tracks
Mathare tracks with points

We also collected couple of hours worth of video footage which we’ll use to make a documentary of the first two weeks in the field.

Lessons learned on the first week:

  • Divide people into teams representing different villages. Divide them further into mappers, video and voice members and, if necessary, divide them further into smaller teams of mappers and video.
  • There is a need to divide people so that some go to the field in the morning while the others work behind the computer. Map, voice and video editing should take place on different days.
  • Find a second venue as one is too small for the amount of people we have at the moment.

This week, 13 Dec – 19 Dec, is round two.

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Thinking long-term in Kibera, Mathare approaching quickly

While Mathare is approaching with fierce speed the Kibera teams are working hard to set up the Trust, struggling to create their basic visions and missions, developing their personal goals, thinking of ways to get their work across into the community (something that hasn’t been done yet) and preparing to train others. Working on two fronts is going to be, well let’s say challenging.

But how much excitement and effort can we really expect from our teams to do something we feel is good, maybe even good for them? When asked what their vision, mission and goals are all I hear is the mantra they picked up along the way about how they want to contribute to open data and sharing of information and being the eyes and ears of the community etc. But do they really know and understand what this means or are they just repeating something they were told is good? After all they are going to be the messengers to their communities and based on their messages the communities will react. We say we’re doing this to see how open data can influence the marginalized communities to better advocate upon themselves. But what do they want out of this? I know people have been trying to answer these questions before but it’s somehow different when confronted with faces in front of you, it’s much more personal.

On our meetings I challenge them and ask them what their personal goals are. What do they want and expect from the programs? Do they want to volunteer in these programs forever? What are they doing to distinguish themselves from the thousands (if talking of You Tube millions) of others who are doing the same? When asked this question they usually answer that they want to get paid or get paid jobs, be famous, travel the world etc – these are real dreams, real life goals. And aren’t we doing this so we can empower members of this community to advocate upon themselves and to have a better chance when competing with the luckier and the richer comrades?

Voice of Kibera team

That is why we’re now trying to make them look at what they are doing as a business, a marketing of their skills. They need to sell their ideas and their talent. They have the opportunity to do that through the programs they are involved with. They can still be the eyes and ears of the community and still influence change but they also need to think about the sustainability of the programs which will be achieved only if they are satisfied with what they are doing.

So the discussion in the past week has been how to raise awareness about Map Kibera’s programs while putting the skills and ideas of the three groups on the market.

The Map Kibera teams are planning several activities to achieve this goal:

The Mappers will raise awareness through Atlas distribution. They plan to do this through a publicity gaining “Atlas launch” to which they plan to invite government representatives, NGOs, UN representatives, community leaders etc. They will ask for small contributions which will be used to print more maps. They also want to distribute the Atlas and hold lectures in schools of Kibera, identify public places to post maps, start public discussions regarding the data collected by organizing community meetings, and they even plan to start a discussion regarding naming the streets in Kibera. Last but not least they want to re-do (update) the map.

The video team wants to start weekly public screenings to showcase their talent and present their work to the community and hopefully start discussions around the stories and events they collect.

Voice wants to set up stands and distribute flyers and stickers to publicize the number.

All of them want to train others. It’s serious stuff and hopefully something good comes out of it! And while the Kibera teams are thinking hard about all these issues, Mathare is like a bee hive, full of expectations, ready to go to the moon. The venue for the forum is reserved and people are being invited.


The forum will take place on December 1st and will last about half a day. We’ll start with introductions from Rose and Simon (CCS and COOPI). CCS will than facilitate “mapping with the feet” , a participatory exercise that asks participants to place themselves within a room with relation to their geographical position in the community in question, to show the participants what mapping is in the simplest of way. The Kibera teams will then present what they did in Kibera and invite people to the stands where they will showcase the equipment and methods and answer more questions. In the end we will open the stage for discussion.

Anyhow it’ll be interesting couple of months. At the moment there are more questions than answers, but hopefully by the end the tide will shift.

Oh… by the way, Mikel and Erica left. Sorry for us.

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