Long overlooked as a municipal responsibility, cemeteries have returned to the center of both public expectations and the entities entrusted with their management. The Republic of Benin, like many other places, is grappling with major difficulties in the management of funeral complexes, which, for the most part, originate in the absence of adequate tools for monitoring and planning cemetery spaces at the municipal level. Indeed, with the increase in population and deaths, burial areas are experiencing dynamic changes. In addition, the lack of information about precise grave locations makes it challenging for citizens to visit the resting places of their loved ones. The methods of managing funeral complexes observed so far have shown limitations and invite reevaluation.
To provide an innovative solution, Benin Flying Labs initiated a project to set up a Geographic Information System dedicated to cemeteries called ”GIS-Cemetery”. The primary objective of this project is to introduce a coding and addressing system for graves in Benin, providing a much-needed tool for monitoring cemetery spaces. It includes several pivotal elements, such as implementing a spatial reference database, drone mapping of cemetery areas to highlight the different tombs, and integrating GIS to manage and monitor sepulchral information.
A Pilot Project Takes Flight
For the experimental phase, the Djegan-Daho cemetery, located in the political capital of Benin, Porto-Novo, was identified as a pilot cemetery. Benin Flying Labs negotiated with the town hall that manages the said burial site, presenting the project to the mayor and the relevant technical teams. The methodological approach we devised consisted of analyzing the project requirements, modeling and developing the application, and collecting geographic data via aerial drone photography.
In June–July 2023, an overflight was conducted over the Djegan-Daho site, an area of 9.87 hectares, using a Phantom IV RTK drone at a height of 75 meters. The overview made it possible to appreciate the occupation of the cemetery, which is divided into three units: one for deceased children, another for Christians, and the last for Muslims. The data from the flyover was then processed to obtain an ortho-photo, which was then presented to the Mayor of Porto-Novo and his team. Impressed by the achievement, the city’s authorities pledged support for the project and expressed willingness to assist Benin Flying Labs.
Empowering Cemetery Management and the Community
Following the initial methodology, the development of desktop and web interfaces will simplify the recording of operations related to Djégan-Daho cemetery by its managers and allow the public to access this information. The GIS-Cemetery application will be developed to provide the Porto-Novo town hall with the means to improve the management of funeral data and anticipate the needs of its constituents by monitoring the complex in real-time. This will ensure that the population has secure access to sepulchral information at any time and anywhere.
To ensure the successful implementation of the application, training will be offered to the Funeral Affairs Department of Porto-Novo town hall. The proposed application is a powerful tool to monitor cemetery spaces in Benin, and its impact and sustainability rest entirely on the use that future users will make of it.