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Fall 2004
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Senegal, West Africa

GIS Helps Holy City of Touba With Land Management

By Tiffany Potter, Scientific Technologies Corporation

  click to enlarge
Global view of Touba parcels using GIS.

The Khalif General of the holy city of Touba, Senegal, West Africa, realized he had a problem on his hands when he attempted to distribute parcels of land to his people. In the past, land had been given away to followers of the Khalif's family without formal documentation. Written upon thousands of unorganized and unformatted sheets of paper were the names of people who had received land from the Khalif and his family. Given the unstructured nature of these transactions in the past, the Khalif had no way of knowing whether or not a particular piece of property had already been given away and no way to track property titles because none existed.

The Khalif decided that something must be done. The city, which had experienced significant growth in the past decade, ballooning from 150,000 in the mid 1990s to nearly one million by 2004, was in desperate need of a management system. With so many followers (residents), the Khalif was now unable to manage land allocations without technical support. Local consultants deemed it necessary to create a parcel database that would house information relevant to the distribution of the Khalif's land. To fund this undertaking, the Khalif and his consultants agreed that for the first time the residents of Touba would incur a small tax. A database to collect and store tax information would also need to be created.

Under the auspices of the Khalif, local company MTS Afrique tapped Esri Business Partner Scientific Technologies Corporation (STC) to create the technical solution to the problems facing the holy city. STC was chosen because of its successful record in developing systems for parcel management, tax assessments, and landownership tracking. These projects have addressed such diverse problems as highly fractionated ownership interests, lease and fee disbursements, probate transfers, and special assessments accounting. The challenges in Touba were met with the creation and implementation of a new landownership and tax support system—the Geographic Information System of Management and Information of the Allotment of Touba (SIGGIL). Because of the multilingual needs of the user, the system interface is able to switch between French and English.

The system features census information; land parcel management, ownership and tax revenue management; and the issuance of land titles.

  the Touba mosque
The Touba Mosque.

To address the city's needs, a land records parcel numbering system was established, and tax parcel IDs were created from a combination of census tract, lot, and parcel IDs. Approximately 300,000 acres of land were allocated to more than 100,000 people. SIGGIL also facilitated the creation of tax accounts and payments made against these accounts.

MTS Afrique and STC chose MapObjects LT 2 as the map control because of its speed and lightweight properties. It integrated well with the Visual Basic code and surprised users at how rapidly the maps were displayed. It also worked well for scaling an application originally created for a smaller municipality. Shapefiles were created using ArcGIS Desktop 8.2 and ArcView 3.x and subsequently accessed through MapObjects LT 2.

Maps are used to query user and parcel data using the identify tool or as an interface to access information from other screens of owner and parcel data. Council members are able to find a property by the owner's name, parcel number, or location on a map. Utilizing GIS, maps are sent with background satellite imagery to neighborhood representatives for review and confirmation of ownership. City leaders are then able to determine locations for the construction of new buildings that is made necessary by the drastic population growth. With future city projects possible because of taxation, the council will be able to discern who will be affected by construction.

In addition, SIGGIL is capable of expanding to support additional services, including the tracking, monitoring, and analysis of community facilities, population health information, and environmental and hygiene data, as well as various community services. "This project has a priceless potential to be mined," notes Moctar Sourang, director, MTS Afrique. "The success of the project opens limitless prospects and puts developers in a much improved position to help develop the city."

The first phase of SIGGIL implementation is focusing on land and tax management. Future, larger implementations of the system will be created in ASP.NET or JavaServer Pages with ArcIMS 9 serving maps.

For more information, contact Moctar Sourang, director, MTS Afrique (e-mail:, tel.: 221-8426262) or Duane Boldt, director, General Services Division, Scientific Technologies Corporation (tel.: 520-202-3333, e-mail:, Web:

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