Cartography of Mali: progess report of the project

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In October 2012, IGN France International was awarded the project for Mali which covered 1/200,000 mapping and the modernisation of the country’s national geographic institute (Institut Géographique du Mali, IGM). This project, financed by European Development Funds, is due to run until June 2016.

One year on, project manager Nicolas GRÉHANT has drafted a progress report.

The project was officially launched in October 2012. What stages of the project have been completed so far?

We have finished the first stage of the project which involved creating our work environment and we started on the first production phases back in September.

During the first production phase, we worked in several key directions and our aim was to lay the foundations for the project.

We then moved on to the second phase in July: receiving and mounting equipment procured via the international call to tender sent out at the end of 2012. The tender concerned all of the equipment (PCs, software, scanners, tracers, SatNav, vehicles, etc.) necessary for operating our four future workshops: DLM/Images, data/Vector database completion and mapping. All of the equipment was delivered to the IGM site and stored in buildings that had been specially renovated for this purpose.

The second important event was the delivery of all the SPOT 6 satellite images. The first images were received in March 2013 and in the five months that followed, thanks to the acquisition of images in long, north-south segments of up to 600 km, all Mali’s 1,241,000 km² of territory were covered without a single cloud. The IGM now has access to detailed data at a resolution of 1.5 metres over a territory two and a half times the size of France. Our images expert made the most of this important evolution by providing training on Geoview to local teams, thanks to the equipment IGN FI made available free of charge.

In order to save time, we have also made efforts to collect existing data. After reassembling and dematerializing a great deal of information available at IGM, we then turned to other public and private entities such as the National Roads Administration or the National Statistics Institute. We were able to collect data related to roads, rail lines and classified forests as well as information on population censi (the latest was carried out in 2009 in more than 20,000 towns, villages and hamlets) and infrastructures.

After having been qualified to check their accuracy, these data are now used as an additional aid for interpreting images. They also allow improved focus for future terrain completion work. 

Official requests have been formulated and we are presently creating a number of partnerships. It is fundamental for IGM to build an effective support network around itself in order to ensure its products are correctly updated over the longer term. Each partner entity has a twofold gain in joining the network as it will not only benefit from the quality control of its data but also the possibility of seeing its information represented on maps and/or on the future Geoportal.

It is also important to note that a complete diagnosis has been performed with the aim of rehabilitating the Institute’s offset press and implement a veritable Photoengraving and Printing department. Technical expertise is finalized. The decision regarding this promising project for the country’s development is now in the hands of policy and financial decision-makers.

The second stage of the project began in September: the start of production.

This phase started at the DLM/Images workshop where geometric and radiometric processing of satellite images began. This work is carried out before the hydrography stage of the project and a training session on cleaning up contour lines generated by the DLM.

Production has also started in the Database workshop thanks to the photo-interpretation of orthorectified images from the DLM/Images workshop. We are presently working on the southern part of the country, spanning the regions of Koulikoro, Ségou and Sikasso and the region of Sikasso has just been completed.

All of this work has been made possible thanks to recruitment and training. The project now has 9 IGM managers and 30 contract employees (young Malian university graduates specifically recruited for the project). It is also important to highlight the full implication of IGM’s management.

Besides our ongoing production, we are also continuing to collect data and create further partnerships. We are looking for all types of information on the themes we still want to develop (mines, dams, high and medium voltage power lines, etc.)


You have just launched the production of a new National Vector Database. What are the next phases planned?

The National Vector Database to a scale of 1/200,000 will continue to grow in size and quality as the project’s management and specifically recruited operators gain experience, therefore increasing their productivity.  We will be starting additional activities in the field during the month of March in order to obtain the first set of results before the rainy season arrives (which means 4 months of inactivity from mid-June to mid-October). Traditional mapping work will begin in September and our first spatiomaps will be worked on at a later date. We must also keep our parallel objectives in mind: the creation of a National Vector Database to a scale of    1/1 000,000 and the implementation of Raster map database and a metadatabase.

Finally, let’s not forget that our goal is not only to succeed in the production of our project, but also to successfully transfer our skills and know-how to enable IGM to update its databases and products independently.

When can we expect to see the first set of data appear on the Geoportal and the first maps printed?

The ‘national Policy for Geographic Information (PNIG) was defined at the Council of Ministers on January 26th 2012. Tools such as the Geoportal and the Geocatalogue were the decisive factors for the PNIG as they not only favourise exchanges but also give added value to products. These internet platforms were created by the company MEMORIS, part of the FIT Group, and their specific aspects were presented last September. They will be integrated into IGM’s toolbox in June 2014. Our aim is to make them available to IGM’s partners as well as the general public by May 2015 so as to promote the project and get a maximum amount of feedback from users.

We are also planning to print around forty map sheets at 1/200,000 out of the 119 that Mali will possess.

Nicolas Gréhant is presently an engineer working for the Mapping department of the National Institute of Geographical and Forest Information (IGN France). He spent twelve years at the Ministry of Defence before choosing to use his skills in topography and mapping within a civilian organization.

After the revision of mapping in Senegal carried out in 2008 and the currently ongoing project in Burkina Faso, this is the 3rd time IGN France International implements projects of this nature and this magnitude.

See the project sheet for Upgrading the 1/200,000 base map and the national mapping institute of Mali

See the project sheet for cartographic upgrading of Burkina Faso