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GeoODK: Landmapp

Landmapp’s field trip into the Albanian mountains

On February 28th, Thomas went on the first field trip to the village Golaj in the Northern Albanian mountains to explore the opportunities of doing a pilot in the summer. We were invited by our partner CNVP to visit a local town and to interview a few families. With the support of another partner, IIASA (http://www.iiasa.ac.at/) , we were able to bring along Jon Nordling, developer of GeoODK. GeoODK is an open-source mobile data collection platform that includes basic GIS functionality. We expect to be working with this platform for our pilots.

The Background

Since 2014, CNVP is leading the Forest for Local Economic Development (FLED) project in Albania. CNVP is a locally rooted NGO that has built collaborations with the forestry organisations, the Ministry of Environment and the local municipalities. The program is funded by the Swedish Development Cooperation and supported by the World Bank. The main objective of the project is improved decentralized and sustainable Communal Forestry providing increased production, service and income to rural communities. One of the key activities is to map and register land rights for communal forestry.

To map and register land tenure, CNVP engages in a participatory process with the local community. Garmin GPS equipment is currently used to map parcel boundaries and forest management plans are developed together with the families.

Landmapp engaged end 2014 with CNVP to explore opportunities for piloting its methodology for land tenure mapping using mobile devices and crowd-validation: neighbours validating each other’s claims.

Mapping our first parcel

When we came to Golaj, we met with a group of eight people: there were experts of the forestry federation and representatives of two families who’s land parcel were neighbouring. After initial introductions, they explained their age-old method of using stones to demarcate boundaries. We then walked the boundaries of one parcel, using our pre-installed GeoODK field survey to track the GPS coordinates. After arriving back at the point of departure, the map showed an accurate GeoShape and follow up survey questions about the land right holder and neighbours were answered by the families.

We were able to interview the families on their motivations for engaging in this process. Most importantly, they said, for documenting and digitising their parcels is having evidence of the rights to their land. An older gentleman said “we used to live in an age where we marked parcels with stones, now we live in a time where we are making legal documents. We don’t want to stay behind.” They also confirmed to be looking to use their land certificates when engaging with the bank.

Next Steps

Landmapp and CNVP are now developing a full pilot, which is estimated to run from mid-May to mid-July, including a train-the-trainer approach and enabling technology for parallel mapping of an entire village. The process design will be aligned with the existing participatory approach that CNVP has successfully implemented before.

We will further customize our pilot application to fit the local Albanian context. Based on this pilot and others in Asia and Africa, the design of our product can start (expected by August/September). We are confident that we will be able to decrease the mapping cost and time by 50%, while collecting more data and engaging the end-user in the process. But first we will start by carefully listening, experiencing and understanding the needs of both the families as the organizations involved. Landmapp is aiming to bring a team of skilled experts to the pilots for training and research.

We are looking forward to be back in the field in May when the Albanian flora will be in full bloom. In the meantime, there’s a lot of work to do on process design and technology. We are excited to be working with an experienced local partner like CNVP. We’re also happy that GeoODK proved itself as a valuable tool to map parcel boundaries on a mobile device with sufficient accuracy. This will provide the basis upon which Landmapp will test its crowd-validation mechanism.

Albania is a beautiful country rich in resources and vegetation. There’s many ways that Albanian families could derive more value from their land in a sustainable way. We hope to be able to contribute to this development in the months to come!

About GeoODK

GeoODK provides a way to collect and store geo-referenced information, along with a suite of tools to visualize, analyze and manipulate ground data for specific needs. It enables an understanding of the data for decision-making, research, business, disaster management, agriculture and more. As a multi-dimensional application, GeoODK’s goal is to provide an open source platform that can be expanded to address current and future needs of data collection. More on www.geoodk.com.

About Landmapp

Landmapp (landmapp.net is developing a platform and mobile app that delivers affordable land tenure mapping for rural communities. Landmapp was founded as a for-profit social venture in Amsterdam by Thomas Vaassen, Simon Ulvund and Paul Chatterton; and supported by WWF and IIASA. In the next months, Landmapp will be doing feasibility pilots in three continents to validate its innovative crowd-validation mechanism, while deepening understanding regarding the cultural, political, legal, geographical and technological aspects of its solution. Landmapp will develop its platform specifically for organisations like NGOs, farmer cooperatives, micro-finance providers, certifiers and governmental agencies.