East Africa / ILRI / Pastoralism

The Importance of Local Knowledge in Topographic Mapping

Abstract: Topographic maps form a critical source of spatial information for development. The expanding human populations, appreciating land values and the shrinking of natural resources all have a direct implication on the availability of such information. Yet, the utility of topographic maps is limited when outdated, which is frequently the case in developing countries.

Outdated topographic maps constrain the utility of geographic information in support of effective development, efficient land management and property rights in developing countries. The recent introduction of web based map making which accesses satellite imagery like Google Map Maker offers local people the possibility to produce up-to-date maps. Yet, apart from being current, maps also need to be accurate, a reason why map making is normally assigned to professional surveyors. In this paper we investigated the accuracy of road maps of an urban area in western Kenya produced by surveyors and non surveyors, with and without local knowledge. Those with local knowledge classified roads with over 92% accuracy, irrespective of surveying background. Professional surveyors and laymen without local knowledge achieved accuracies of 66.7 and 45.8% respectively. These results suggest that there is compelling reason to consider delegating topographic mapping to local authorities and communities.

Presenter: Lapezoh Ortegah

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