I was honored to be one of 3 students who got selected to attend a workshop in Malawi on 2 September 2022. We were invited to participate in OpenStreetMap (OSM) mapping training with the YouthMappers from the University of Malawi in Zomba.
We arrived at Chileka Airport in Blantyre where we then drove all the way to the University of Malawi in Zomba. My fellow students and I were eager to learn as much as possible about the Malawian culture and we asked the driver dozens of questions as we drove from town to town. He was very friendly and told us the names of each town, monument, and even the names of the mountains we drove past.
When we arrived at the T&D guesthouse, we were greeted by fellow YouthMappers. Zola (one of the members of the training team) made sure that each of us had a roommate from a different university in order for us to make new friends and learn even more about each other’s cultures during the trip.
We started with a kickoff session on Friday evening and worked all day Saturday and Sunday with some time for relaxing and network building in the evenings. We covered various topics such as collecting data using Kobo Toolbox, JOSM, QGIS, how to host a mapathon, and how to engage with the OSM community. Since we (the UP students) have worked with some of these tools before, we were able to provide thoughtful input from our experiences, for example, loading and working with data in QGIS.
One of the interesting and unfamiliar topics we covered was JavaOSM (JOSM), which is an offline mapping application. I noticed that Malawi experiences unexpected power outages like South Africa and as a result causes an unreliable internet connection. This makes the JSON topic special because it makes it possible for users to map when there is no reliable internet available.
On Sunday we were tasked to collect data using Kobo Toolbox. We ventured out to the Zomba market where we not only collected data but we were also able to explore some parts of Zomba city. We had to talk to some of the locals in order to find certain points. My fellow group members were kind enough to teach me some Chichewa phrases in exchange for my teaching them some Afrikaans.
This was definitely an unforgettable experience. I hope that I will be able to meet my fellow Malawian YouthMappers again in the future and maybe even welcome them to South Africa.