UCU Mbale (2nd University)

Uganda Christian University, Mbale (UCU Mbale) is a branch of UCU Mukono where we had the first Mapping activity with University students in September 2011.

On the 11th of September, the Mapping Challenge 2012 had UCU Mbale mapped to OpenStreetMap (OSM). This was the mapping team's destination after mapping with Gulu University on the 7th of September.

Opening remarks

First off, the audience in Mbale was a mix of students who had an idea about mapping and those who did not seem to see the connection between mapping and their everyday lives and, most importantly, how they could fit into the equation.

It seemed easy going with one but abstract for the other. We slotted in an extra session to accommodate the group that needed a little more explanation about mapping with OSM.

Mr. Wesukira an official from the Manafwa local government was in attendance and threw more light onto OSM as a mapping tool and the relevance of this to everyday life. This seemed helpful, he went on to tell how useful a GPS is; providing latitude and longitude information for a point on earth and the relevance of mapping to business activities.

In the field

The participants collected a lot of information during the mapping day. The noticable changes are potrayed by the maps of UCU Mbale before and after the event.

UCU Mbale after

Map making: Satellite Imagery

The satellite imagery in Mbale is great. This made editing, adding and verifying the GPS data points a lot easier and faster. We did not have to rely on waypoints and tracks only.

Mapping with UCU Mbale turned out to be a rich learning experience for both the participants and mapping team from Fruits of Thought. We faced a challenge with seemingly empty gpx files from the GPS units and had to devise quick means of recovering the files without losing all the data points.

We managed to identify the important files that are the lifeblood of the unit and forcefully deleted the malware instead, using a machine running linux.

Secondly, one of the groups represented nodes as buildings, and went ahead to upload these edits to the OSM server. Unfortunately or fortunately the representation could have been better.

The uploaded information had to be erased from the OSM server and the editing process started all over again- with some disappointment from the group members. Having to face the flip-side of editing with JOSM equiped us with skills to handle such challenges in future.


Dialogue seems to yield better results for two parties attempting to collaborate on something: the feed back from the participants was a good way to know how well we could work together.

One of the flip chart questions looked to find out if any skills had been shared: one group's response was “We have acquired mapping skills through the use of internet and the different software involved”. The different software would be JOSM and Potlatch.

At the end of the training, Douglas asked the participants if leaving a GPS unit was important at all. The response was a resounding yes- which came off as feedback, not so direct though.

Follow Up

One of the lecturers was invited to acknowledge receipt of the GPS unit, ideally to allow for continuity of mapping among the students. The mapping team plans to keep in touch with UCU Mbale students through email-a follow-up meeting is planned for a month from now.

Read also

Road Trip 2012: The Story
1st University "The Gulu University" report
3rd University "Uganda Pentecostal University" report
4th University "Mbarara University of Science and Technology" report
5th University "Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi" report