Two weeks of field work within the EUROSHA Chad Project – by Nicolas Chavent (HOT)

(Thanks Nicolas for this nice blogpost, where he wrapped up first impressions and key facts from Chad! Original article taken from http://hot.openstreetmap.org/updates)

 

Last night of hard work in the meeting room of the UNHCR in Gore (Southern Chad) debriefing the two weeks of field work. Tomorrow we head North to Ndjamena. I feel that this is the right time to share with you impressions and facts from those last intense and beautiful days.

I’d like to start first with the vitality, the energy the EUROSHA project created. Especially that of the Team who had been engaged in the 4 days October training in Plaisians (France) at the premises of the Group URD. There is something simple, strong and beautiful in the way those 26 young individuals decided to volunteer 6 months of their lives. Their energy was communicative and worked as a fuel keeping us up to speed. It has an even a stronger effect when experienced during a deployment.

Two weeks ago, I joined Claudia, Orci, Pascal, Aude, Katerina and Nas in Ndjamena after 72 hours of travel from France. The timing was just right: I had half a day with them to prepare for their leaving to Gore where they would be scouting and starting to set up our base camp there to roll out OpenStreetMap programs in Southern Chad. In the mean time, I was going to reach out to possible partners of the EUROSHA Chad project in the capital together with Federica (the head of ACRA) and Telngar (the representant of France Volontaire) our partners in Chad. Both activities went well. This last round of presentations of the project generated a strong interest amongst key actors such as OCHA, WFP, UNHCR, OXFAM and NGOs from the NGO Coordination Committee in Chad (CCO). We also linked to some groups active in the open source, also the Direction Nationale de la Cartographie et de la Topographie (DNCT) which acts as a de facto National Mapping Agency in Chad and its contatcts to the Academics. The open data and open source approaches to humanitarian Information management (HIM), the role of Volunteer Technical Communities, and the OSM component of the EUROSHA project were positively received and cooperations discussed. It was encouraging in 2.5 days to meet or be introduced to the main actors that form the ground. This will ultimately make it possible to grow the OpenStreetMap project through the synergies of Academic and Tech actors on the one hand; NMA and humanitarian actors on the other hand. Further down in the South, the situation was also promising: the volunteers settled down at our base camp and started their exploration of Gore where we decided to focus our mapping and training activities for a 2 months pilot phase prior reconnecting to the Ndjamena actors

As usual, we have been combining many strings of activities over those past 10 days of work in this territory to set things up and build the readiness of the team. Long days were dedicated to building a strong relationship with all actors of the zone from the IGOs and NGOs to the Local Authorities. These have been mostly strong and warm moments for most of us. With HOT acting in humanitarian and development environments as a common service providers with limited resources, these relations are critical for our community buidling and mutualizing schemes to operate. As Chad is concerned, this interfacing and introduction work was even more important since it would have not been possible to map without the building of trust around the group and the project. While laying the ground with days of meetings for the surveying work to be possible and for solidifying a network of trusted partners, we have been mapping in parallel roads and buildings with the imagery from Microsoft Bing to prepare for agile surveys campaigns. These have been also facilitated by long urban and rural walks as well as car rides and passionate discussions regarding territorial facts. Continued self training and “train the trainer” sessions have been happening regularly in order to build the training force of the group. All this ensures the readiness of the group once the green light has been given for mapping.

The group have put itself in motion gradually, tying mapping and training, keeping logistics simple by working in Central Gore. Beginning with ACRA staffs prior opening it to personnals from the main NGOs and IGOs active in the area. We were attentive to introduce both voluntary exercises as well as training part of ¨profesional¨ learning processes. This was important to our eyes to build on the long term a local group in Gore driven by organizations shifting to OSM but also by individuals interested and committed for their own reasons. As experienced in most of the HOT workshops, both training and surveying times were conducive of the emerging of social relationships and ties in between individuals. As an overall result the team of the EUROSHA Chad project succeeded in being accepted in the Gore area and in its region, in growing its surveying, training and presenation skills. They fell ready to undertake the initial camp mapping project once the final details for this program will be set in Ndjamena through meetings with representants of UNHCR and CNAR.

Our last day as a team in Gore has been a mix of all those activities: field visits of the refugee camps of Amboko not structurally different from the territories of Gore, field work, editing of the OSM database, and finally a wrap up and workplan session the team co-lead with Alessandra. This day and the two weeks and the resources and tremendous energy of the team make me feel confident in their ability to cope and carry out their programs with the remote support HOT is planning through its tutor program.

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