Saturday, December 21, 2013

Embed your google earth map in your website

The Inside Travel team asked me whether it is possible to show the destination with picture and tourist offer on a map in our webpage. I had no clue about who to do this, but my intuition said, it should be possible, and indeed it is and it is quite simple : you just need to do the following steps :

  1. In google earth, you can create you own layers, named kml files (native google earth geo-data format not to be confused with a famous airline name). In my particular case i added placemarks for the different destinations. You can even add pictures that are on the internet, and description (
  2. save the kml file to the computer
  3. load the kml file to a server (such as google drive or google sites) 
  4. use the google reach out gadget found here 
  5. indicate the link to the kml server file, and choose the setting
  6. get the code and embed it into your website (with a html widget for wikispaces or blogpost)
Find here the google support concerning embedding a google earth project. 

Interesting in this procedure is that all the data need to be on the internet. Crucial is to find a stable location and not use links that depend on others (for example using a picture on Wikipedia) which could be removed.
One option is to put all the documents on google solution, namely using picasa for the picture and google drive for the klm file. But I just discovered another elegant solution is to use a google site (find google explanation here). Google sites allow to have webpages made in a very simple manner and has a feature called "file cabinet". A file cabinet is like an FTP server that is hosted by google and can easily be linked to any website or can be used in the Google gadget above. The advantage of the file cabinet is that all the documents needed to embed your map (pictures, text, kml) are stored in one location only.

Pretty cool, what google allows you to do with maps. This could be a smart way to present agricultural research results in a spatially explicit way and is definitely a feature you will find back on the new Inside Travel website. Until then, try it out yourself, it is less difficult than what you might think!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Swiss development cooperation in the Horn of Africa : a move towards pastoral areas

On the 5th of December 2013, the second Swiss Development cooperation day took place at the Hilton in Addis Ababa. The objective of the day is to bring together all people related to Switzerland and to some development cooperation in Ethiopia. By chance, I was in Addis and could join this event, and see the evolution since the last development day.

After a quick introduction round, in which I could present Inside Travel, we got some presentations about BurnaNest project (creating a new town near Tana Lake), about civil society (which I could unfortunately not attend) and one on the evolution of the Swiss involvement in the Horn of Africa, by Manuel Flury, the representative of SDC in Addis. 

From the last one, we could learn that the Swiss strategy has changed. Whereas in the past the Ethiopian Highlands and land and water management was the focus, also thanks to the Land and Water resource center, there is today a clear willingness derived from the Swiss development policy to address the challenges of the drier areas of the Horn. 

The “whole government approach” of the Swiss development strategy for the Horn of Africa foresees involvement in 4 sectors, namely i. food security and rural development ii. health sector iii. good governance, state and peace building, conflict transformation iv. migration.

For the first sector, food security and rural development, three goals have been set : 1. Increased adaptive capacities of dry land communities to cope with drought and other incidents that trigger food insecurity (including food assistance as a coping mechanism in case of acute and chronic food insecurity) 2. Good practices of natural resources management (NRM), including water, are increasingly integrated to local, national and regional policies and institutions. 3. Improved need-based services for livestock production, dry land agricultural and local value chains, with focus on vulnerable persons, including women.

As the Swiss Embassy and the Swiss Development cooperation have relatively little experiences in these areas, they will work with a whole range of partners. In this perspective, a strategic partnership with IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) is in the process of being established (a memorandum of understanding is about to be signed). IGAD is composed of all the countries of the Greater Horn of Africa, is supported by several big donors and has the role of addressing divergent political interests among its members. Though its today still weak implementation capacities, IGAD is expected to increase its importance in the region also thanks to its close collaboration with the African Union.  

Research has always been an important component of Swiss involvement in the Horn of Africa. Is there scope for livestock and value chain research? What could the role of ILRI be? 

If you want to brainstorm these questions with Manuel, feel free to contact me.

find the official communication about the meeting here 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Overcoming the middlemen : an example from Kenya

One reason why smallholders remain poor in Africa, is the lack of transparency about the market price of food. As smallholders do not know the market price, middle men have a lot of power and push the price down. Several options exist to overcome the middlemen's power. In Ethiopia for example, real time screens in major market towns show the current market price of most agricultural products. This week, i found another interesting option, that has been implemented by a young Kenyan smallholder : a website to share information but also create a virtual market place to connect smallholders directly to each other for agricultural input and to consumers for agricultural output. Like in Europe, some farmers decided to develop short supply chains to avoid the middle man. A great initiative, check it out yourself  :

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Clothing industry in Ethiopia, slavery or a great opportunity?

In the Ethiopian highlands, the fertile parts of Ethiopia, landholding size is around a hectare per household. Assuming an average household size of about 6 persons in rural areas, then this would suggest about 600 persons per square kilometer. Even if this number seems at the upper edge, it is undeniable that population pressure is huge, and agricultural productivity (agricultural output/person) is low. Though several opposing theories exist, one suggests that countries should heavily invest into the secondary sector, so that people move out of the rural areas to work in the emerging industries. Because less people are working on the field agricultural productivity would automatically improve.

Ethiopia is a country that is trying this strategy. Lately, even Swiss free newspaper were announcing that H&M would start producing low cost cloth in Ethiopia. Having seen horrible images from Bangladesh, where cloth production is just modern slavery, I am wondering if the industrialization strategy is a “winner’s curse” ? is Ethiopia becoming a new Bangladesh? Is it really slavery?
I recently found this movie on internet showing how shoes and shirts are produced in Ethiopia, by Chinese and Turkish. The movie is entitled modern slavery, a title I would like to challenge…

L'Ethiopie casse les prix - Escalave moderne par kersanti

In the movie, we see well-built factories with quite good working conditions. Nothing to compare to the overcrowded badly build factories in Bangladesh. Ok, we see some women who do not use the right protecting cloth when gluing shoes, yes it is bad, but “self-employed” smallholders producing onions also use chemicals without protection. It is bad, but the understanding of the importance of correct protecting material has not yet reached Ethiopia, and I would even believe the Chinese bosses who say why should I oblige them, they would not use it anyway.
Let’s now look at the benefit schemes a worker gets. The lady that is hired to fold the Aldi t-shirt is earning 50 cent an hour. So let me make some computation, if she works for 8 hours, she gets 4 dollars. Then she also gets a free meal, and a free service bus bringing her home (ILRI where I worked abolished the services bus). Ok, this is not a lot and ok she pays half of her wage to say in a small room without water and electricity. But looking at my former’s driver wife. She is running her own small burger place on a road side near to some condominiums. On good days she makes double than the girl who folds shirts in the factory, but she does not get a free meal, and 20% of her earnings goes into transportation, she had to invest money and bares risk. Also my cleaning lady was not earning much more per day than the girl folding Aldi shirts, but her days were shorter and she had many more benefits...

My former driver's wife running her burger place

So is it really modern slavery, or is cheap labor just the comparative advantage of Ethiopia to industrialize and move more and more people out of poverty? I understand, for us it is a moral question if it is fair that the Tommy Hilfiger shoes that we pay more than 200 usd are produced in Ethiopia only for 8 USD. But the clothing industry in Ethiopia is just paying local wages that by the way are more than double than in the commercial farming sector (a worker that picks the roses you buy in your supermarkets gets less than a dollar a day). And workers could walk out of the factories and go back to their rural homes, yet they stay, because there are no other jobs for uneducated people that pays as much as the clothing industry. Slavery starts there where people have no choice than working for low wages (for example because their passport has been taken away and can’t leave), I don’t think that is (yet) the case in Ethiopia. Ok these worker might have no choice because they can’t find any other job, but this applies to many many many other people in the developed world too. Lack of education and poverty makes them slaves.
I definitely feel that the emerging clothing industry is a great opportunity for Ethiopia to develop, to lift people out of poverty so that they are freer in future. Remember that the developed world did not get rich by preserving nature and human rights. But a critical eye should be kept on this industry to make sure that we are not getting a second Bangladesh…
Despite of all this, we should not look away from how things we eat and use are produced. Though, conditions are ok in local terms, it is a moral issue. Could working conditions not be improved in such a way that they contribute to a faster positive change for the Ethiopian society? For example by letting the industry invest in education and health care? In the end, it is you as a consumer who decides!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Looking back on fieldwork in the Ethiopian Highlands

Attentive readers of this blog will remember Jennifer Veilleux' fascinating blog post about the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia. Up until today, this post is  one of the few source that shows exclusive pictures of the areas before flooding.
In return for this post, i have written an exclusive post for her blog, making sense of what field work in Ethiopia taught me and how these lessons learnt are shaping the inside travel start-up today. So check it out!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do you know who the grand-father of the green revolution is?

Currently Dutch TV is showing a series that investigates where our food comes from, called Fresco's paradisLouise Fresco, professor at Amsterdam University and former director of reserach at FAO (and what a surprise a Phd from Wageningen), takes us into her paradis : "Food is our most intime way to interact with nature, because we in fact eat Nature. Handeling it in a carless way, wasting it or not knowing where it comes from, goes against any principle of a responsible life"

With this moto Louise takes us around the world, showing us how agriculture has emerged. In the first part of the series she visits the gene bank in Spitsbergen, and explains why agriculture could only develop thanks to dompting water in Turkey. (Watch it here)

In the second part, Louise takes us on the trip of the apple. I have been fascinated by the story on how the apple could reach Europe from the Middle East thanks to silk road. The horses on the silk roads where not only carries goods but also apple seeds, from the apples they were eating in the natural apple forests of Kazachstan. Apples very fast became a very good food items for Europe because it does not need any processing for being eaten and can be stored for a pretty long time. Intersting that today, apples are brough to the Ethiopian highlands to increase food security : the Silk road has been replaced research and extension service.
Also Louise introduces us to Nikolaj Vavilov (1887 –  1943), the Russian botanist who studied these apple forests and is considered as the first scientist who introduced the concept of genetical selection to improve crop productivity. This concept has been used to improve the crops in Asia, and therefore Nikolaj can be considered as the grand-father of the green revolution.

Watch this fascinating story here! 

And if you don't speak Dutch, then you need to be patient, it seems that the whole series will be available on DVD with English subtitles.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

About local farmers feeding the world and other stories from the air

Some months ago, i took a flight from Geneva to Nairobi via Amsterdam with KLM for a job interview. On my first flight, from Geneva to Amsterdam i got a traditional Dutch egg sandwich served. It is one of these very Dutch sandwich, soft dark bread with some strange egg mixture in it. You really need to be Dutch to love this stuff.

The sandwich box on the KLM flight from Geneva to Amsterdam

What impressed me most was the box in which the sandwich came in. It was full of information that triggered my thoughts. Next to a pretty classical recipe for bread baking (inside the box), it said, that the wheat was ground in a wind mill. Cool, it means this product contributes to the conservation of the traditional and authentic Dutch landscapes with windmills. I just noticed, that never the word traditional or authentic was mentioned and i wonder if there are modern wind mills and how they look like... I don't know (just probably like all the other passenger on this flight), but great that KLM is trying to support the Dutch landscape, which in the end will attract the tourists and help them to fill the planes.

But i was more astonished by the other side of the box, it says "local farmers feed the world"and "we produce our bread with respect for our planet". Up until today, i am wondering what that means. The Netherlands is the second biggest agricultural product exporter of the world, so de facto feeding the world. Also the Dutch agriculture is one of the most intensive ones, and sometimes pretty unsustainable and polluting. Nota bene, the sandwich was not labeled as organic, which would guarantee that this Dutch product has not been produced above the capacity of the land. And by the way the box talked only about the bread, what about the eggs? how many antibotics did the chicken get, and did they ever see the sky?

how do local Dutch farmers feed the world and produce in respect our planet?
I ended up with some really funny thoughts : did you ever meet a global farmer? what would that be? or is every farmer bound to his land and therefore local? And is not every farmer somehow feeding the world? And if feeding the world should suggest that food has been traded on a world market, then is KLM against the principle of food sovereignty? Can't be... it is just a sentence that does not make any sense to me... and i really wonder what all the other passengers were thinking while reading this. 

Anyway, it was this terribly early morning flight, I was on my way since 4 am. And even if my bread had been produced by global farmers to feed people on Mars, I just ate that sandwich : I was hungry and it has this incredible and unique taste of the Netherlands that recalled many very nice memories.

Finally, I landed in Amsterdam, happy as my stomach was full of sandwich and coffee and my mind full of nice memories. I stepped out of the plane and wished the flight attendant a "fijne dag verder en tot ziens" (have a good day and good bye). Upon which the flight attendant wished me "wel thuis" (have a save trip home).

I moved to the gate to board my flight to Nairobi, wondering what the flight attendant meant with "wel thuis".  I recently was offered to go back to ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute) as a GIS specialist to be based in Nairobi. I finally understood that the flight attendant meant : Nairobi will become my home soon. Going back to the "wild South", where everything is yet to happen, was too tempting, i could not refuse. Making sense of modern technologies and approaches and combining them with traditional local knowledge with the aim to support farmers to feed themselves and maybe the rest of world remains a fascinating challenge. Somehow I feel that i want to be part of this challenge and to its solutions, trying to make Nairobi my new home : a place where you can  enjoy the taste of samosas, definitely produced by local farmers for the local local market and a place where you will be welcome in a near future. 

eating a samosa at Java house in Nairobi

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Quails, an alternative to chicken farming?

Chicken production can be very profitable both in Kenya and Ethiopia, but it can also be a tricky business (see my previous blog post about this topic). Indeed, it is a business where barriers to entry are low, meaning that many producers can join the market easiely, produce and prices will drop.  Therefore challenges, next to disease control are, accessing the distribution chain and produce for the more difficult seasons (fodder shortage, cold weather) when prices are high.

During my last trip to Nairobi, I visited my friend who avoids the price volatility by producing a niche product : quails.

Batteries full of quails
She produces them in the suburb of Nairobi in a shelter standing in her garden, in batteries. Ok, this does not correspond to European animal welfare standards, but this is Kenya. You cannot ask better conditions for animals than for human beings. Nonetheless, as quails are considered as wildlife, you need an authorization to keep them from the Kenyan government to produce them.

Quails eggs ready for incubation
She is breeding the quails, using her own eggs, and incubating them. At this stage, her business is to sell young chicks, and as the business is very good, her small incubator is not sufficient anymore, she made a deal with a friend, so that she can access a big incubator.
the small incubator
The new born quails are kept together with one adult quail and kept warm with a simple bulb in a box, at least until the building of the shelter for young quails will be finalized.

Young quails
At this stage, the major business is producing young quail chicks and sell them farmers. But the long term success will depend on how the quail market in Kenya will develop. Will quail egg become a standard product in supermarket? will eating quail meat become a trend? a gourmet item?

Wanna produce your own quails? you need some information or even some chicks in Kenya? Feel free to contact Treazah with this form.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Can we take back the power over our food chain? a reflection on food sovereignty

Food scandals are getting more and more frequent, the wrong meat in European lasagna, Chinese children dying of poisoned milk power. As a result, food sovereignty is becoming an emerging issue. Some month ago i received an interesting book, entitled food for thought, on food, power and human rights, by Gunnar Brulin and Malin Klingzell-Brulin, from a friend who interviewed the worker's unions.

It is a book that shows how the big companies have been taking over the power of our food chain, making us consumer powerless. We don't know anymore where the food comes from where and by whom it has been processed.

The authors of the book work for the Swedish food worker's union, and take the reader on a travel around the world, meeting those who produce the cheap food for us. From the Marabou (the famous Swedish sweets producer) precarious jobs (contract jobs only) in Sweden, to the coke drivers in the Phillipines with 12-15 working hours, passing through the shrimp production with child labor in Thailand, or the Ghanian producer suffering from dumping products. The book shows us how workers in the food industry have less and less power. This is pretty critical for our food chain, as theses people are the one responsible for the quality of our food. If we loose control over these jobs we loose control of the quality of food. But the book is not only negative, it also illustrates some small battles can be won, showing that a better food chain is possible, as for example with RSI victims working for Nestle in Brasil.

What i learned from this book is, that it is possible to take the power back of our food chain. "It is not easy to achieve sustainable production chains. It requires that the purchaser in the retail sector pay a reasonable price for food. Quality comes at a price. The different part of the chain need to be transparent and monitorable. It also requires that the workers themselves, via their trade unions can ensure that their working conditions are decent. Better jobs security means safer food. Government and other organization must be able to guarantee that production compiles with official standards and is environmentally sustainable." (taken from the conclusions of the book p 213).
"The right to food concerns everyone's right to a livelihood. The food shortage, hunger, is an issues for the UN and the ILO where nations, employers and trade unions can meet and make decisions that government promise to follow. It is crucial that there a jobs with a living wage. The trade unions member were have met are involved in food productions globally and locally. There doesn't need to be a conflict between these, if they compete on fair terms.  " (taken from the conclusion p. 220)

Next to enlightening stories and conclusions, the book has also a great appendix showing facts about our globalized food chain, from the seed and fertilizer company to the consumer, showing where the power truly is.

Sad that such a good book is so hardly accessible (you can order it from the union directly). If the Swedish workers' union were serious about transforming the food system, a first step would be to get his enlightening book to a wider public. Maybe it could be an idea to set it online for free? 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

benefit sharing mechanisms to insure sustainable tourism

Rural tourism is a tricky business, it can represent an opportunity for a rural community, but it can also break the ties community has, through making some people very rich and some very poor. To avoid this, it is important to find option to make community as a whole benefit from tourism, but this without killing the entrepreneurship of individuals.

Recently i visited a community that has been building its own lodge. Today  would like to share with you how the community has been organised, so that the community as a whole can benefit from tourism.

The first thing that stroke me, is that each household had to hand in some land, that would then become communal land. This is a hudge step for Ethiopian smallholders who just recently got land security (i.e. long term leasing) from the goverment. On this newly communal land the lodge has been build and registered under the community's name. It has a board and a manager who work for the lodge. They also manage the bank account that is on the name of the community. As this lodge is at its very beginning the community has decided to save money, so that they could invest it further into the tourism industry or to keep if for an exceptionally difficult situation for everyone (such has hunger). There are clear rule on how money from the lodge can be used.

The material from which the lodge is build, as well as the baskets and other items for sale  are locally made by the women's labour exchange organisation. They are organised in groups of 20 women. Each group has its own bank account on which the money from a sale goes. The women then decide on how to distribute this money.

We were discussing pricing of goods sold to international tourists, and see how they would actually handle the value added from tourism. For them, it was always clear that they would charge a bit more (but also mentioning they would always stay fair) to international tourist. We discovered that any items sold would be first cashed by the community lodge and then paid to the women's group. In that manner it would be easy to fix a tax, insuring that the women's group get a fair price (why not 10-20% higher than local price) but what is above that would stay on the lodge's account and can be used for the whole community.We also discussed that they could actually sell goods at local prices but then charge an entry fee to foreign tourists which could be paid to the lodge, and then be used by the community.

We were pretty impressed by the smart way this community is organised to share benefits of tourism with the community as a whole. These mechanisms allow us to be sure that tourism will not hurt them, but contribute to real rural development. They earn the money they need through their own effort (i.e. do not depend on aid) and can decide themselves about what their priorities are to spend the money. What ever they do with the money, they will be feeling the owner, use it efficiently and maintain the purshased things/ investment. Also they will make choices that are feasible and useful to them (even if we sometimes might not understand these priorities).

In order to not forget anything that the community representative told us, we made a movie to capture the discussion. This quite lengthy movie, shows how difficult it was to understand clearly how the community is organised and how their benefit sharing mechanism works. But thanks to the patience of the whole team, we finally could understand the benefit sharing mechanism that could be summerized into a blog post... a great thanks to all who made this visit possible, and more particullarly to Kebebe for bringing us there and his endless patience to translate our questions and their answers.

Wanna meet this community? contact inside travel !

Saturday, September 7, 2013

social entrepreurship : or what goes wrong with chartity?

Recently i have reported from a group of young people that started a social enterprise, named inside travel, that tires to offer authentic travels to Ethiopia and offer new tourism market opportunities to rural communities.

I have been thinking about how to support these communities to build up an institution/structure so that they  build a benefit sharing mechanism allowing the community as a whole to benefit from tourism, rather than just a few, splinting the community in to rich and even more poor. My first over the thumb computation showed that we would need about 100 000 USD in 5 years to make this happen. The dramatic part of this story is that not one dollar would go to the community. It is just about helping them with building up an institution that will enable them to raise money from markets when ever after and develop themselves out of their own effort... sounds like a very smart and sustainable idea, but who will be willing to fund a project where no money flows to the community? Who is willing to take the risk to fund a project that might fail?

But in the middle of these thoughts, I found this TED talk. Dan Palotta, talks out of my heart, showing what goes wrong in funding aid.

"Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta calls out the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities. Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend -- not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let's change the way we think about changing the world."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Better than a million of words : visualizing FAO data in gap minder

Do you love looking at columns and columns of data for hours trying to tell a story with all those numbers? Or would you love a program to do this for you?

The well known Swedish professor Rosling, known for  his amazing TED talks presents his data with the gap minder, a program that allows you to visualize three types of data at the same time across several dimensions, in a static as well dynamic way, showing the temporal evolution.

So what's new? The new gap minder has a beta version that allows to visualize the whole FAO dataset is a quick and meaningful way.

Here an example of mind gap, showing milk productivity ((kg/animal) on the left scale, versus income per person on the bottom scale, and the size of the cercle indicates total production, colors the continent and as well as the temporal evolution for selected countries. 
For example the graph above analyses milk production, per animal and in total per county over time. One an see that the US and the Netherlands have experiences a high productivity jump over the last 40 years. China and India have a much less impressive productivity gain over the same period, but the total amount of milk produced is increasing suggesting that there are more and more dairy cows in these areas. When one looks at Ethiopia, the total production as well as the productivity remained low over the last 20 years.

Also the the new version of the mind gap has also a new feature that allows to look at data in a spatial way. It is not a fancy good looking GIS solution but at least a quick way to see what is happening where.

The geographic visualization in gap minder 
The only bemol is, that the FAO data cannot yet be linked to the other datasets in gap minder, making it impossible to link FAO agricultural data with more bio-physical or detailed economic data... i guess it is just a matter of time until this will be possible.

So check it out and convince yourself! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Setting new standarts in community based tourism in Ethiopia

On my latest trip crossing the the rift valley in Ethiopia, I stopped in Hosana, a small town off the tourist track. Thanks to my friend who new about my recent interest in tourism as rural development, this stop has become one of the most interesting on of my trip. Some 5- 6 km away, we met a rural community, which is on the point of launching new ways for rural tourism. It is a community who is going to set new standards in social tourism.

The community lodge
With the support of an NGO, the community set up a community lodge (which is registered under Ethiopian law and can legally host guests), women labor exchange organisation produce local good, which are sold to the community as well as the guest.
The community offers day program, with local food and drinks. The community can offer basket making workshops, horse riding or playing traditional games. 

A tukul from, with a traditional bed
There are also some tukuls where tourists could sleep on traditional beds. These are hard bed upon which traditional mattresses made of some local grasses are put on.  In the case there are too many tourist, then some people can stay with community members in their houses.

A beautiful traditional roof of the lodge

Traditional toilets are being build and a generator providing electricity should be installed by November. Water will be carried from local source (just as all the community member do every day).

When one talk to the representatives one feels that the community as a whole has invested a lot of energy and has a lot of hope. The community is well organised, insuring that benefits from tourism are shared among all, and that the benefit is spent based on a participatory way, insuring that community really want and bothers about (unlike donations that might not correspond to the need of the community). Visiting them is not just an experience for the tourist who can learn about traditional lifestyle and enter in close contact of what is "real Ethiopian rural life", but is a way for rural development, allowing the community to insure its future without begging or depend on aid. It is socially responsible tourism, as i have hardly found anywhere else. 

The representative of the community in the lodge
In the up-coming post, which will be labelled with inside travel, i will go into details of the benefit sharing mechanisms that have been set in place, as well as the historical background on how this project has emerged. So stay posted :-)! 

Wanna go and meet this community? Contact Inside Travel or myself!  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

how smartphones revolutionize developing countries : a reflection on the GPS training in Gondar

From my field work in Ethiopia, i learnt that getting access to GPS, setting them right and collect the waypoints (location) of farmstead was on of the most challenging tasks. It is about one year ago that my team sent out over twenty enumerators with garmin GPS, laptops and data cables, trying to collect with more or less success geo-referenced data.

On my short term visit in Gondar this week, i decided to give a one day GPS training to whom interested from Gondar University as well as the Gondar agricultural research Institute. It was a sort of open day, where I wanted to look at option of collecting data with what these people have, expecting that most of them would somehow appear to the training with a very old Garmin GPS (without batteries) and a laptop without any GIS software. I had proposed to look at QGIS and Google earth, two user friendly open source GIS software to avoid long (and illegal) Arc GIS installation, making it very realistic that each of the participant can continue his learning process from home/workplace. 

participants downloading data from their smartphones to their computer
To my big astonishment, more than half of the participants owned a fancy smartphone with GPS. Some one year ago, i was the only one with a smartphone, my original  chinese Huawei (a very cheap smartphone produced for in Kenya), but today most of the people have some much more fancy ones than my crappy china phone. 

In the end the training focused on how to use an android phone, with the app "mytracks", to collect data. How does the GPS in such a phone work? When does it go wrong? All participants then mapped out their data in Google earth, that now allows a spatio-temporal visualization of data. Honestly, it is so fancy and never before it has been so easy to collect geo-referenced data. 

A participant presenting how he has collected and visualized his data on his smartphone

At the end of the training we captured some of the reflections and lessons learnt from the training on short videos, such as the above one. You can find the whole documentation of the course and soon also the complete reflection of the training under the training webpage.