How to tag "Highways" in Africa which are not accessable by vehicles

I know that there have been a lot of discussions about trunks, primary, secondary and tertiary highways, tracks and paths outside of industrialized countries, especially in east Africa. And I have read “Highway Tag Africa” (and similar wiki articles regarding different African countries) more then once.

But I still need the help of experienced OSM mappers for a mapping project in Amhara, Ethiopia - namely in the Kebele (village community/farmer`s association) of Yemezegn [የሜዘኝ ቀበሌ] near the town of Debre Elias [ደብረ ኤሊያስ].
Yemezegn Kebele

The problem is that there are a number of different types of roads/highways in this area.

  1. a main connecting road reaching from the Yewula-Debre Elias “highway” to the west, connecting the settlements in the southern part of this Kebele
  2. some minor roads near the settlements, connecting them with road No. 1 and connecting different settlements
  3. roads/paths within the villages (“residential”?)
  4. tracks which reach out into the fields and connecting hamlets and single dwellings
  5. a lot of small paths

Most or all of the tracks and paths are no steady, but appear and disappear based on their usage by foot (and animals/live stock).
A special problem is that this area looks totally different in the rain season (Kirempt) from June to mid September and during the rest of the year. During the 3-3.5 months of Kirempt rain most or sometimes all of the wetland is flooded. When the water is gone some of this land is flat and dry and it is this non-farmland which is used for a number of roads up to category 2 above.

Although I know that even the bigger local roads like category one above (which I would like to tag with “tertiary”) are sometimes very difficult/impossible to use during heavy rain seasons I had the information that the road I liked as No. 1 above is just a “not all-weather-road” and could be used by vehicles when it is dry.

But now I read the following information in a master thesis of a native, who did research on-site in 2013/14:

Yenesew Sewnet Yizengaw: Determinants of livelihood diversications. Strategies: The case of smallholder rural farm households in Debre Elias Woreda, East Gojjam Zone, Ethiopia, Haramaya/Ethiopia, October 2014, p. 49

If this is correct (no vehicles use and can use any of these roads), what would you do?
Using the categories tertiary, unclassified, track and path based on the different importance of these “highways”?
Or: Tagging all of these “highways” as paths after they can not be used by cars at all.

Any qualified hints, ideas and suggestions are welcome.


P.S. 1: Anyboy who would like to join in to “re-animate” the Ethiopian OSM community would be welcome as well.
As I am not a native I would be happy to step back into the second row if anybody in Ethiopia itself would like to “take over” (again).
My idea/plan is just to throw a stone into the water based on a bit of knowledge about the county/region, my passion for Ethiopian culture/history, based on my interest in the Amhara Church forests and based on my intend to support Anti-Podoconiosis Initiatives in that region

P.S. 2 [edit June 19]: May be I should post/mirror this question somewhere else. Any ideas?

Interesting project!

As I am mapping mainly in the Congo, I am often confronted with similar problems.

My current strategy is as follows:

I only use the tags “primary” and “secondary” if the road is indeed classified as such by the congolese government. The huge problem in that case is that some roads are assigned a “Route Nationale” status by the government although they are not usable (anymore) for vehicles. To match the official government appraoch, I still tag them like described above - usually with the surface tag “dirt”, sometimes even with a comment “unusable”.

(Note: I do make exceptions to this rule if the road’s state is “good” [definition of “good” according to the congolese standard], broader than the usual roads and use is visibly frequent, for example the axe connecting Mukoso and Feshi - but these exceptions remain a very few.)

I use the tag “tertiary” if the road is rather broad, but has no government assignment but is in a usable condition (recently refurbished) and visibly used.

But most commonly I use the tag “Minor/Unclassified Road” - that goes for all roads which are of “normal size” (that means not more than one lane big enough for one vehicle). The “knock-out” criterium for this tag is if the road has parts where grass is growing over, indicating either no frequent vehicle use or very infrequent vehicle use. In my opinion, these roads are not qualified for a “road” tag, therefore…

…I tag them with “Unmaintained Track Road”. I am quite specific with this tag, that means I usually also set the “track type”. Generally, I tag everything which looks like it could be passable with off-road-vehicles as Unmaintained Track Road. If the track is too small for a vehicle or visibly only used by foot/cycle (You can mostly see that by the course of the track), I use the tag “path”.

To conclude, I can quite relate to your way of tagging and think it is adequate!

(One last note: Way inside villages. I started to use OSM in German, and the tag “Service Road” is translated to “Erschliessungsweg” - this term does not relate to “service” in any way, it simply means “Small way which is used to connect/develop/lead to an area”. Therefore, I started tagging all the small ways inside villages as “service roads” - “Erschließungswege”. Looking at the town of Gungu, the results are totally acceptable, as the ways are indeed so small that they can hardly be called “Residential road”.)