Mapping for Resilience – Using New Technology to map Oruchinga Refugee Settlement

May 4, 2016

Above: Amos Kirya, the OPM Settlement Commandant for Oruchinga explains to the community how the drone works. Below: A shot of the Oruchinga settlement office. (Photo Credit – UNDPUganda2016).

ISINGIRO – Uganda is demonstrating innovation in its approach to building resilient and sustainable communities by using the latest technology to support risk-informed development in the country’s oldest refugee settlement.

Home to over 5,000 refugees, Oruchinga Refugee Settlement in Isingiro district, South Western Uganda has provided a safe haven to thousands of refugees over the past four decades. Thanks to Uganda’s progressive and world-leading refugee policies, families making a home in the settlement are allocated land, as a way of enabling self-reliance.

As with the rest of Uganda, climate and disaster risk threatens this self-reliance. Changing weather patterns, availability of water, soil degradation, and encroachment, among other issues, are some of the challenges facing residents. It is for this reason that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is collaborating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to strengthen livelihoods in the settlement.

Under this initiative, UNDP is supporting the development of the first ever refugee settlement base map, an innovative tool to support the community make evidence-based development decisions. The base map will be created by operating a drone high above the settlement.

“With the drone, a very high-resolution aerial photomosaic will be produced,” Ms. Catherine Nakalembe, a remote sensing specialist with the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), explained.

She added that the mapping is a participatory exercise, with residents identifying community infrastructure, homestead plots and crops.

“We will then overlay hazard, risk and vulnerability information with historical data on rainfall so the community, and its leaders, can make evidence-based decisions on what crops to grow, and to support future decisions on community infrastructure and land management,” she said.

Welcoming the partnership between UNDP and UNHCR, the Office of the Prime Minister’s Settlement Commandant, Mr. Amos Kirya, said that the current maps used are outdated and not conducive to participatory decision-making. He added that the new map will also assist OPM in resettlement planning as they will have a complete picture of the settlement’s land use.

UNDP’s Country Director, Ms. Almaz Gebru, notes that in Uganda “refugee hosting is no longer just a humanitarian issue - it’s now also a development issue, and as outlined in Uganda’s second National Development Plan the management of refugees requires development solutions.”

She added that with its experience, UNDP is best placed to support the Government, and UN agencies, to bridge the traditional humanitarian-development divide.

The mapping exercise is supported by UNDP’s Integrated Climate Risk Management Programme funded by the Government of Sweden. It promotes approaches aimed at integrating climate risk management approaches into development planning, with a focus on innovation.