Department of Geographical Sciences researchers Jan Dempewolf and Catherine Nakalembe are helping to drive innovation in Uganda by using the latest technology to support environmental risk assessments in the country’s oldest refugee settlement, Oruchinga. Together with staff from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) of Uganda and the settlement headquarters they successfully completed the first ever refugee settlement base map.
The work was carried out as part of the UNDP Integrated Climate Risk Management Programme (ICRMP) funded by the Government of Sweden. The program supports the integration of climate resilient approaches into existing livelihood activities in Oruchinga. The majority of inhabitants are engaged in agriculture, growing mostly maize, bananas and vegetables on allocated land. The scope of the ICRMP encompasses improved climate risk management of homestead gardens and agricultural plots, tree management and the rehabilitation of degraded land through afforestation as well as support of small scale fishing and pond management. The new detailed orthophoto-mosaic and digital surface model will provide the necessary foundation for the baseline assessment of land cover and land use, environmental conditions and soil fertility.
The mapping was carried out using a fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The total area covered was 17 km2 during a period of 3 days, resulting in more than 1,200 individual aerial photographs. A first analysis of the new data revealed extensive sand mining as a destructive land use competing with agriculture and permanent destruction of the landscape (photo).
The Settlement’s Commandant, Mr. Amos Kirya, said that the current maps used are long outdated and not conducive to participatory decision-making.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 and up-to-date picture of the settlement’s land use. Other commandants, visiting Oruchinga during the field campaign voiced their support of the initiative and expressed interest in carrying out similar mapping efforts in their own jurisdictions, many of them encompassing much larger refugee camps and settlements. The effort was also warmly welcomed by the Permanent Secretary of Agriculture of Uganda.