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Rohan Fisher Research associate Research Institute for environment and livelihoods.

“Maps are more than pieces of paper. They are stories, conversations, lives and songs lived out in a place and are inseparable from the political and cultural contexts in which they are used.� Warren, 2004

“More indigenous territory has been claimed by maps than by guns. This assertion has its corollary: more indigenous territory can be defended and reclaimed by maps than by guns.� Nietschmann, 1995 (p. 37).

The power of maps: • Maps are not neutral • Privileges those with access to mapping tools. •Generally privileges certain types of knowledge and representation •Shifted research away from human or political ecological methods of understanding complex causative processes. •A reversal of the classic scientific focus on understanding process over description

• Participatory GIS as a response

Indigenous communities and conservation organizations are increasingly turning to mapping and spatial information technologies for implementing their strategies to strengthen tenure security over resources and improve natural resource management.... Using a range of PGIS methods.

•Documenting and safe guarding traditional knowledge •Collaborative planning •Collaborative research •Collaborative protected area Management

•Management of conflicts bound to the territory and its resources

. Strengths •Useful to engage non-expert users •Low-cost and not technology dependent •Most participants can relate to product •Easily facilitated

Weaknesses •Impermanent and fragile •Not produced to scale; not accurate precise consequently might lack credibility as a formal decision making document


•More detailed and permanent than ground maps Weaknesses

•Outputs are not georeferenced and can only be transposed onto a scale map •Lack of accuracy undermines credibility with government officials

Strengths •The 3-D aspect of the model is intuitive and understandable; this means all community members can contribute either information or labour. • Initial creation of the community model is in itself a community activity with positive community-building outcomes (also a good tool to learn about map topography) •The information on the model can be easily transposed and replicated in a GIS. Weaknesses •Labour-intensive and relatively time consuming when compared to using existing scale maps

Strengths •Can be engaging, offering community members views and perspective of their area that they may never have experienced before. Landmarks may even be recognizable. •Often easier for people living on land with little previous map experience to relate to. Weaknesses •Requires access to appropriate imagery •Orientation can be difficult.

Strengths •accurate scale maps which are recognized by official agencies. •Technology more commonly available Weaknesses •Difficulties converting collected data into a map product.

Strengths • Free tools enable fairly sophisticated mapping and analysis. Weaknesses • Need digital hardware •Need base data. •Need some computer literacy.


• Easily distributed •Allows some interactive mapping/analysis Weaknesses •Restricted internet access •Need Hardware •Computer literacy

Web GIS not the solution Access (% Population) 80%








0% Africa



Oceania / North Australia America

Examples • Arafura Swamp • 3D Participatory mapping Timor Leste

Examples •

A 3D model of an area of the Arafura swamp and escarpment country surrounding Murwangi community near Ramangini in Arhnemland was created a to support a community knowledge mapping project.

Examples •

A 3D model of an area of the Arafura swamp and escarpment country surrounding Murwangi community near Ramangini in Arhnemland was created a to support a community knowledge mapping project.


Examples Participatory GIS for a Coordinated Act ion in Disaster Risk Reduction and Empowerment (CADRE ) Programme in Timor Leste



Examples •It was made clear to the communities that they are the experts of the 3D map. It was acknowledged that they know their place better than anyone else: where things are, what has happened, the causes and impacts of these changes. •Clear community perception of current land uses and the status of the natural environment. •Increased understanding by the community of risk-hazard and vulnerability analysis. •Development of a common understanding and commitment to protect the water catchment between and among stakeholders. •Encouragement for the restoration of the former strong relationships and networks between upstream and downstream communities. •High community participation during the making of the map and giving detailed information during the validation process. •Providing an opportunity for both the government and other stakeholders to have dialogue.

Examples •

Field data collection tool. Collecting geo-referenced data for direct export to a GIS.

Used extensively by indigenous ranger groups to collect environmental information such as the sighting of fishing boats or ghost nets.

Used for health infrastructure mapping in Eastern Indonesia.


Examples I‐Tracker is supporting Indigenous land and sea managers to use the information they collect to improve land and sea management at local, regional, national and even international scales. •live marine animals; •nests and tracks; •dead or sick animals; •boats including illegal foreign •fishing vessels; •marine debris including ghost nets; •quarantine activities; •commercial fishing nets & crab pots; •pest samples; and •fish kills.


Examples Tenure Rented Owned

Examples Last Harvest No Harvest Low Harvest Medium Harvest

High Harvest

Reasons New Field Not Farmed Too Much Rain Pests and disease

• “”The most important knowledge for interpreting spatial information is the knowledge of local environmental, socialeconomic contexts. It is much easier to transfer mapping skills to those with a life time of accumulated local knowledge than to transfer a life time of local knowledge to those with mapping skills.

Data collection and analysis at the local level can increase data understanding and data quality.

Data Collection

‘The experts’

Data Analysis Understanding Data








Three components 1. Integration of existing data for spatial visualisation 2. Rapid field data collection for: • Updating health infrastructure data • Conducting Household surveys

3. Service Availability Mapping (SAM).

Kota Kupang

Stage I: planning

Stage II: the mapping process

Who participates? Who decides on who should participate? Whose problems? Whose questions? Whose perspective?

Whose voice counts? Who controls the process? Who decides on what is important? Whose reality is expressed? Who controls the use of information?

‌ and whose problems, questions and perspectives are left out?

And who is marginalised?

Stage III: resulting information control,

Ultimately ‌

disclosure and disposal Who owns the output? Who owns the map(s)? Who owns the resulting data? What is left with those who generated the information and shared their knowledge?

What has changed? Who benefits from the changes? At whose costs? Who gains and who loses? Who is empowered and who is disempowered?

•Visualising knowledge

•Intra- and intergenerational knowledge exchange •Supporting community cohesion and self-determination •Bridging isolation and supporting change and innovation

Community participatory mapping,  

Community participatory mapping, Geographic information empowering local decision making

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