Sapelli Collector in Zambia: Orchid Tubers, Community Forests, and Flooding in Lusaka

This is a guest post by horticulturalist and botanist, Nicholas Wightman

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In February of this year, ExCiteS team member, Megan Laws, travelled to Lusaka, Zambia to give a workshop on developing Sapelli Collector projects for the purposes of monitoring wild orchids and facilitating other possible uses in Zambia.

The workshop was generously sponsored by the Darwin Initiative funded Chikanda Orchid Conservation Initiative (Project Ref. 23-034 – Edible wild orchid trade: sustaining livelihoods and biodiversity in Zambia) and the Zambia Community Based Natural Resource Management Forum.

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Members of the Madimba Women’s Group planning how to code the project they designed to report on flooding in Lusaka. © Megan Laws

Workshop participants included village community members from several Game Management Areas (GMAs) near Mpika around North Luangwa National Park as well as members of the Lusaka Madimba Women’s Group and the Chikanda Orchid Conservation Initiative’s (COIC) Project Manager.

Participants learned the fundamentals for Sapelli project development including: creation of project ideas; designing pictures and icons; writing project code and checking it with Sapelli Packager; and downloading project data and visualising the information with mapping platforms such as Community Maps and Google Earth.

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The Madimba Women’s Group and members of Mpika Community Forest Group work together on their mock wireframes. © Megan Laws

The workshop introduced the concepts of the Sapelli Collector app to the participants but more importantly for the decision makers at the Zambia CBNRM Forum to see how the app can be tailored to suit the needs of different communities in which their members reside.

Up to now, there has been very little capability for local communities to monitor and track the resource or environmental changes in their areas without the need for expensive computers, programs and GPS technology.

Sapelli Collector uses the GPS, computing and programming abilities of all smartphones to make it easier for communities to gather data themselves for issues they agree among themselves are important. It is hoped that the participants will return back to their homes and start using the Sapelli Collector projects they helped to create and gather data on Forest Management in relation to the Mpika group, and on Solid Waste Management as well as Flooding issues in relation to the Madimba Women’s group in Lusaka.

The author, Nicholas Wightman, hand pollinating orchids in his greenhouse in Lusaka. © Priscilla Nyathi

The COIC Project Manager developed a project to help identify and map Chikanda orchids in the rural environments during the course of the workshop.

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Sapelli wireframe for the Chikanda Identification project © Nicholas Wightman

Using the Chikanda ID and Mapping project on the Sapelli app, community members in Chikanda harvesting areas can photograph the different orchid species targeted by harvesters, record the local name(s) and with the GPS locality information, send the data to the COIC to help build up species distribution maps and information vital to the conservation assessments of the different orchid species used in the Chikanda trade.

Sapelli collector is funded through the ECSAnVis project, which has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 694767)


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