The Survey of Kenya (SK) was founded in 1906 and is responsible for geodetic, topographic, photogrammetric and cadastral surveying and the publication of official topographic and cadastral maps of Kenya. Like other African countries Kenya has used overseas aid donors to establish and maintain its mapping, notably with British support until the 1980s and subsequently with Japanese technical aid.

In 1947 a program started to provide modern base mapping of the country in cooperation with the then Directorate of Colonial Surveys, (now Ordnance Survey International (OSI)). Maps in these programs followed the usual pattern of British overseas mapping, and continue to use a Transverse Mercator projection, modified Clarke 1880 ellipsoid. The 1:50,000 scale series was originally designated Y731, now series SK61. The 1:50,000 scale map was originally intended to cover the more densely populated southwestern and central parts of Kenya in about 435 sheets. Early sheets appeared as monochrome planimetric editions; later versions were published in color with contours every 50 ft. The current specification has replaced almost all of the imperial maps, and conforms to East African practice of neighbouring surveys in Tanzania and Uganda. Contours are at 10 m, 20 m or 40 m, and the maps are compiled from medium-scale vertical aerial coverage together with field update. To the north of the original area of 1:50,000 scale mapping the basic scale was a 1:100,000 scale map in 130 quadrangles, also compiled from aerial photography, but in conjunction with the British Directorate of Military Survey. This was completed in 1970 and is no longer revised. Instead the aim is to extend the 1:50,000 scale series north and eastwards, and to withdraw 1:100,000 scale mapping once the area is remapped. This will produce a single basic scale for the whole country in 827 sheets. About 550 of these maps were compiled by 1999 and it is intended to revise this map base every five years. Experiments with digital production were carried out with French aid in the mid-1990s, but in 1999 production still relied upon a conventional cartographic flow line.

A 1:250,000 scale map covers Kenya in 48 sheets and is derived from best available 1:50,000 or 1:100,000 scale mapping. Border sheets are the joint responsibility of adjacent surveys. This map was compiled as a joint project between the British Directorate of Military Survey and SK and was completed between 1958 and 1970. First editions showed relief with layer coloring and imperial contour intervals. Revision has continued to depend upon the availability of updated larger scale parent sheets, and since 1979 has included metric contours. In 1984 experimental revisions of two sheets in sparsely settled parts of Kenya used LANDSAT imagery but were not contoured.

Soviet military topographic mapping of Kenya exists at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (7 sheets, complete coverage, published 1958-1984); 1:500,000 (17 sheets, complete coverage, published 1963-1980); 1:200,000 (23 sheets, primarily north and eastern coverage, published 1978-1983); 1:100,000 (57 sheets, primarily north and eastern coverage, published 1979-1982) and a city (1:10,000) topographic map of Nairobi published in 1979. These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.

Geological mapping of Kenya is carried out by the Mines and Geological Department (MGD). A 1:125,000 scale series covers much of the country, sheets are issued with accompanying geological reports and numbered in their order of appearance. Most cover quarter-degree quads but earlier sheets are not available. More recent full-colour 1:250,000 scale maps with texts have been published for parts of the center and north, giving about 15 percent coverage of the country. A single sheet 1:1,000,000 scale map of Kenya was compiled by the French Bureau d’Études Industrielles et de Coopération de l’Institut Français du Pétrol (BEICIP-FRANLAB) and published in 1987. This is also available with Bouguer or structural contours.

Soil surveying of Kenya is carried out by the Kenya Soil Survey (KSS). In the early 1980s they issued 1:1,000,000 scale soil and agroclimatic maps of the country using the FAO/UNESCO soils classification. These were issued with an explanatory text, a map of the information base and a land evaluation sheet and the project was carried out in conjunction with STIBOKA, the Dutch soil survey (now incorporated in the Winard Staring Centrum). KSS also compiles 1:100,000 and 1:250,000 scale reconnaissance soil surveys, and a few more local larger scale maps published mainly for parts of the south and east of the country. Some 1:50,000 scale soils mapping, incorporating surface geology, was carried out in the early 1980s, with Japanese technical aid. Other 1:50,000 scale soil mapping of parts of the country was carried out under British colonial programs in the 1960s.

Amongst other officially sponsored surveys were the ecological, land use and vegetation maps produced by the Kenya Rangeland Ecological Monitoring Unit (KREMU), now the Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing. This was set up in 1975 and has actively used remotely sensed imagery for land cover mapping of Kenya. Products have included a national map as well as more detailed district level summaries.

Nairobi is the base for a number of organizations with international or continental mapping interests. The Regional Centre for Services in Surveying Mapping and Remote Sensing (RCSSMRS) is a major focus for research into cartography and image analysis across the African continent. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters are also based in Nairobi. Within UNEP important digital mapping projects are administered in the GEMS and GRID programs, and in the desertification unit.

1:1,000,000 scale coverage of Kenya is used as a base by SK for many of its thematic maps, including tourist, administrative, road, vegetation, soil and geological coverage. The National Atlas has appeared in several different editions, the fourth edition includes small scale thematic mapping of the country. Other mapping from SK includes tourist sheets of the national parks.

Urban areas are mapped at 1:2,500, 1:5,000 and 1:10,000 scales. Because of rapid urban growth this topographic program is unable keep up with change and much of the large scale map base is now very dated. Cadastral mapping is progressing rapidly and there are plans to establish an ARC/INFO-based land information system.

Amongst local commercial publishers are Interland Map Services and Kenway Publications, who have both issued town maps of Nairobi. Macmillan Kenya (Publishers) Limited, specializes in the educational market and producing atlases, wall maps and national park coverage. Overseas commercial publishers have also been actively producing maps including: Berndtson & Berndtson (B&B), HarperCollins, Lonely Planet, Macmillan, New Holland, Freytag-Berndt, Nelles, and the American Central Intelligence Agency. West Col and Ordnance Survey International (OSI) have produced tourist mapping of Mount Kenya.

The Population atlas of Kenya is an electronic atlas including 1989 population census data, which can be mapped against a number of different geographies captured at 1:1,000,000 scale. Data are held as ARC/INFO coverages and users can create their own maps and tables using ArcView.

Copyright © 2014 De Gruyter for e-version of World Mapping Today, 2nd Edition | Copyright © 2019 East View Geospatial, Inc.

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