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Peter Poole reports on his experience with community mapping

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My name is Peter Poole. We have a small NGO called ... ... Local Earth Observation based in Amsterdam. Peter, you have conducted a number of worldwide assessments of ... ... participatory mapping in developing countries ... ... where good practices are most advanced ... ... and why? First of all, the survey that I did ... ... was slightly different from "Participatory GIS". It was what we called "Community Mapping" and we did not use GIS. The idea was to enable communities to make their own map. To that end, the peoples that I talked to are communities ... ... that needed to make a map in order to settle tenure issues. And we decided to, ... rather than go in there and talk to them ... ... and recall them in some normal participatory process and make a map for them, ... ... we actually taught them to make their own maps. That was very interesting because what we had to do was ... ... "What is the most simple, the most cheap technology that could be localized, ... ... that could be used by communities." We did about eight or nine mapping projects in Guiana Shield in South America ... ... and after a while a certain methodology evolved whereby we had ... based teams who used GPS, not GIS, to gather data ... ... - and that was geographically accurate data. And then, in the beginning, I or we would do the final map ... ... and turn that information from the field mapping team into a final map. And in a couple of cases, they went so well that we were able to... ... equip the associations, ... ... the indigenous associations, with their own mapping unit. And that was simply ... ... a computer, a printer and the usual peripherals ... ... and they made their own maps without GIS. They used graphic software because ... ... that is all you need to make a tenure map. You do not need the complexity of GIS ... ... and it is something the communities could handle themselves. As a result of these projects, we had community based teams ... ... who could gather very accurate field data ... ...quite independently by themselves, in the community lands. And there were association based units, in a couple cases ... ... who displaced me, and just took over the final part of the mapping process. So, between the communities and the associations, ... ... they were able to control the whole mapping process. This had a very inspiring effect on them. They did not need people like me anymore. Yes, it was very successful. I know a lot about North and South America. I spent, especially, quite a bit of time in South East Asia ... ... and Russia and India; and after a while we got a pretty good idea... ... of where this kind of mapping ... ... - and this included Participatory GIS - ... ... was most intensive and successful in the World, ... ...and that was the Philippines. Out of all these experiences, what do you think Africa - as a continent - ... ... could benefit in terms of development? I think there is a lot to be gained. These mapping projects originated in a classical tenure situation. In America, it is like post Columbus. "You have been occupying our lands. We want to reclaim them. We are going to rename them, remap them and then reclaim them." And this is very common throughout America because ... ... this is all about 500 years since Columbus. But, in the Philippines, it is different. And in Africa it is even more different and the kind of ... ... the whole situation regarding tenure in Africa is so complex and so subtle, ... ...and it changes so much between communities that it's not so easy to go ... ... in there and be sure that the tenure mapping that worked in the Americas would work there. I am not so experienced in Africa, so I really do not know. However, I do think that ... ... - I have been doing this for some years - ... ... and I would say four or five years ago, there were very few mapping projects of any kind ... ... going on in Africa, let alone this particular community ... ... controlled mapping approach that we developed. But, it has been moving very, very fast since then. I have probably learned more in this one conference about what is going in Africa ... ... than I have learned in the last five years. It's very inspiring. Having gained so much experience in Suriname and Guyana ... ... what major lessons have you learnt in that context? I would say that probably three. The first one is that 'you can do this'. It is possible for communities and their associations, ... ... or whoever operates the mapping unit, which is indigenous controlled, ... ... to control the whole mapping process. So, that was the first lesson. That ... ... It is possible to do it, and these communities and their associations have demonstrated that. I would say the second lesson is that, if I had a choice ... ... and this is my own personal take, ... ... I think it probably makes more sense if you are going to proceed to a mapping unit ... ... to have it independent within a country. Simply because very often if you are with an ethnic association, ... ... and this happened in Venezuela with the Ye'kuana, ... ... it sort of belonged to the Ye'kuana ... ... and other ethnic groups within the country may not have such equal access to it. In Guyana, there hasn't been too much of a problem, ... ... but the political pressures upon that organization were such ... ... that they were not really able to spend as much time ... ... as they wanted on mapping. In Suriname, its a similar situation except ... ... they were not just Amerindian communities who were mapping their lands, ... ... but there were also Maroons, Saramaka and Ndjuka, many of African descent ... ... and they are not always in agreement with each other about where their boundaries are and so forth. A couple of years ago when I was doing the last project there, ... ... someone came up and said, "We need a mapping unit here." This was an Amerindian guy. He said, "We need a mapping unit here, ... ... which caters to everybody, which isn't like regarded as the properties of the Arecuna ... ... or the properties of the Saramaka. I would say that is a good lesson. If it is independent it is going to be more useful to serve the interests of a greater variety of communities. The third one is that we elected to teach people ... ... to make their own maps rather than rely on some outside agency ... ... whoever it was and however supportive they were, to make the final maps. But, having done that, we sort of have a responsibility to make provisions for afterward ... ... because all these projects were about tenure. They make the tenure map ... ... It's taken off to negotiations, sometimes in Washington if they're used in international conventions, ... ... sometimes in the nation's capital. The effect is that the community teams ... ... which learned to make the maps themselves had nowhere to go. I have had some conversations with my colleagues about this and I said, ... ... we really ought to, having elected to teach them and they wanted to learn, to make some provision ... ... so that - after the mapping - they could upgrade and diversify their skills. During the mapping process, during the training which takes about six or eight weeks, ... ... there is a communal discourse, which goes through the map making process in the communities. They say, "We would like to do forestry. How do we do that? We want to control the impact ... ... assessments of the logging, of the mining companies, how do we do that?" So, it inspires a real strong thirst to do more, ... ... but we haven't taken that step to enable them. When I say we, I am talking about the organizations that hire me to do these projects, ... ... because they are lawyers and anthropologists, ... ... and they get into negotiations and they're not technical. In Suriname, we have proceeded some way ... ... . I was able to get some money from National Geographic to go back to the Saramaka territory ... ... after they had finished their tenure map, which is a really good map. The reason they wanted to make a map in the first place was because this Chinese logging company ... ... Ji Shen, that moved into their lands from the North, and that inspired the project. The map has gone into the Organization of American States Human Rights Tribunal, ... ... which is in Washington and in Costa Rica. Once again, the map disappeared, it went somewhere else... ... and the Saramaka; there is no context for them to continue. But, we were able to do something and this grant from the National Geographic enabled ... ... me to do aerial photography with the communities about this whole area ... ... that was affected by the logging. They did the ground work and I provided them with aerial photographs that they could relate with. Having done that, we then photographed the deep South of their territory ... ... where they want to develop their own resource management plan ... ... so that they can take on other claims to the areas to conservational organizations and so forth. So, we are sort of inching forward. But, it is something that needs a little more attention than I can give, ... ... more resources than I have at my disposal. Educational Video produced in the framework of the project: "Support the spread of good practice in generating, managing, analysing and ... ... communicating spatial information"

Video Details

Duration: 9 minutes and 59 seconds
Country: Netherlands
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: CTA
Director: Giacomo Rambaldi
Views: 221
Posted by: giacomo on Nov 16, 2009

In this interview, Peter Poole traces the evolution of a methodology which started with the introduction of GPS to the Inuits in 1989 and evolved via a series of projects in the Amazon, the Arctic and Asia. Tenure maps depict indigenous names, resources and special places on scaled maps for use in negotiating processes. Peter describes the search for cheap, simple, appropriate geomatic technology. Community-based teams gather raw field data, and support NGOs set up mapping units to serve the field teams. Peter’s highlights: (i) communities can make their own scaled maps, (ii) mapping centres should make their services accessible to all communities, (iii) this methodology produces a tenure map, and inspires communities to diversify their skills in environmental information management.

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