(3 of 4) Cross Posted from IIED blog www.iied.org/mapping-for-food-safety by Paolo Cravero
Before mapping could begin, conversations first flowed among community members about what to map, where and how. Muungano organised focus group discussions that enabled local stakeholders to answer these questions. To be effective, this phase of the process should be deliberative, open and unrushed. It takes time for stakeholders to reach a consensus about common challenges, priorities and how to proceed. In Muungano’s focus groups, participants identified and discussed what information was already available, what should be investigated and who should be included in future meetings.
Subsequent meetings targeted specific interest groups in order to include and understand the various perspectives at play within the informal settlements. These ‘focus group discussions-plus’ used mental mapping exercises to capture local knowledge. Participants located themselves and their communities on paper and/or digital maps, and showed where services, environmental hazards, street vendors, schools, hospitals and other features are situated.
Some mapping processes go little further than this stage. They conclude by superimposing the different knowledge maps to create a composite and taking it back to the community for verification. Muungano pushed well past this stage to create hybrid maps by combining the indoor mental maps with data gathered on the ground and images captured in the sky. (4)
Aerial photographs integrated with on-the-ground mapping and data from qualitative research can illustrate the relation between residents, the space they inhabit and the activities occurring in it.(5)
(4,5) Ahmed, S. et al. 2015. Cooking up a storm: Community-led mapping and advocacy with food vendors in Nairobi’s informal settlements. IIED Working Paper.
But communities cannot simply turn to free satellite images such as those on Google Maps, which are often obscured by cloud or are simply out of date. Companies producing such images have little interest in providing current images of informal settlements.
Low-cost tools such as balloons, kites and drones can, however, produce up-to-date aerial images of parts of the city official maps do not cover. Through balloon mapping Muungano showed where food vendors operate, the environmental hazards they face in their daily work and the wider settlement’s layout including unoccupied areas.
Guide to balloon mapping
The Public Laboratory for Open Technology Science sells balloon-mapping kits for around US$100. Alternatively, you can build your own. This illustrated guide [PDF] explains how to construct and control a mapping balloon.
“At 20 meters, you get an image that gives a view of the street that helps you see the interactions happening in that street. This is not possible with satellite images. As the balloon goes a little higher […] you start to see how the street interacts with the houses and other things that are happening in the settlement.”– Jack Makau, administrator for Kenya at Slum Dwellers International