Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mapping For Rights in the Congo Basin

Mapping For Rights in the Congo Basin 

I found this interactive map through the Indigenous Mapping Network – it apparently is one of the first participatory mapping projects for the Congo Basin in Africa.  Participatory Mapping or Community-based Mapping is something that I have been interested and involved in for quite a long time now, starting in my graduate school days, through the time I helped start a community-environmental justice advocacy GISc mapping initiative in the South Bronx in the mid-1990s, and continuing to the present.  It is sometimes also called “Counter-Mapping” to show that it is an attempt to create spatial information about a place that will challenge the “official” view of the area, and offer an alternative perspective, based on the lived experience of the people who inhabit the geography.
The Rainforest Foundation UK created the interactive “Mapping For Rights” maps, and they have also produced a nice series of short videos explaining the participatory mapping process, how it’s done, and why it is more beneficial to the affected community (not to mention the benefits of accuracy and correct representation of the data being mapped) than just having experts come in and do the mapping themselves on behalf of the community.  Most of us who are aware of the importance of participatory mapping to secure indigenous rights probably think we know all these things already, but it is very instructive to have it all explained from the point of view of the community, and these videos do a good job of that.  The progression from “ground mapping,” to sketch mapping, to GPS/GISc mapping, to 3-D mapping, to Internet mapping, and how the community participates in each of these activities and why each is an important step in the process, reveals the high level of patience, effort, and time that necessarily goes into facilitating a community mapping project. 
Participatory mapping of this type is most frequently thought of as having the objective of obtaining or codifying the rights of people to fully use and own their traditional land and the resources on it without interference from outsiders looking to profit from the land and evict the original inhabitants, and therefore generally focuses on tribal peoples in relatively remote or rural areas, especially those areas that are rich in the resources valued by governments and corporations. Participatory mapping has been used effectively in Central and South America, Southeast Asia, Alaska, and amongst the First Nations peoples of Canada, to mention just a few, in order to retain, recoup, or formally legalize their fishing rights or rights to harvest traditional resources.   In South Africa, participatory mapping was used to redistribute farming land equitably after apartheid ended, to maximize black people’s chances of obtaining productive agricultural land that had previously been denied to them through forced relocation schemes.
In the case of the South Bronx and other urban areas where counter-mapping has been practiced, it is not so much about rights to the land itself but the right to live on land which is free of pollution and its harmful health and other life impacts. In other words, it is environmental health justice that is being sought.  So in the end, it is still about access to and control over the natural resources one needs to live – whether it is traditional hunting or fishing grounds, forest products, or clean air to breathe.  

         Mapping For Rights, an initiative of the Rainforest Foundation UK, aims to support indigenous peoples and forest dependent communities to secure rights to their land and livelihoods through the use of participatory mapping.  This short video shows how mapping can help to address problems faced by these communities from logging, mining, and other threats as well as being a powerful tool for land use planning and developing new forms of community-based forest management and protection.” From:
         This is the link to the second segment of the series, "Mapping Methodologies."  It looks like there are about 7 segments all together.

Here are three examples from three different Congo Basin countries of the participatory mapping project.  There are many more on the website  as well as some fascinating information on the tribal groups and their culture and geographies.  In the maps of the territories which have been made interactive, you can click on each individual community for more information.

Inongo Territory – Democratic Republic of the Congo
“In 2007-8, the Natural Resources Network (Reseau Ressources Naturelles or RRN) and several of its partner organisations, with the support of RFUK and the Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN), mapped community resource use in the Inongo territory in what was one largest exercises of its kind ever undertaken in Africa.  A total of 408 community mappers from 200 communities were directly involved in data collection covering two of the three sectors in the territory - Basengele and Bolia - chosen due to their population density and accessibility.
The maps produced demonstrate the extensive overlap between customary areas and those of other external actors such as logging companies and conservation agencies, and have been used to support communities' efforts to gain rights to these areas.  The exercise has also served as a test site to provide input into the national pilot forest zoning programme for DRC, supported by the The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank, to ensure that the rights of indigenous and local communities are taken into account.
The project also achieved a great deal in terms of increasing Congolese capacity in participatory mapping and approaches, the use of GIS and in terms of engagement in and influencing local and national decision making processes. Due to the success of the project, mapping activities were extended to cover all provinces of DRC by the beginning of 2009.”

Conkouati-Douli – Republic of Congo
“In order to address these land- and resource-related conflicts, government agencies, in partnership with conservation organisations currently responsible for the management of the Park, have developed a new draft zoning plan which divides the Park into zones with well-defined natural limits: (1) one fully protected zone (marine and inland) which excludes all human habitation; (2) an eco-development zone in which sustainable and controlled exploitation of natural resources by the park's residents can be authorised; and (3) a 5km buffer zone outside the protected area in order to mitigate impacts in the area.
The communities in and around the Park are using participatory mapping to support them in exercising their rights and defending their interests in the process of validation of the new zoning plan. They have produced maps that are helping them to express the importance of their lands and resources to local authorities and other decision makers, in order to encourage their active participation in the ongoing decision making processes.”

“With support from the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) and Rainforest Foundation UK, participatory mapping has been carried out with Baka communities in Nezam, Ando'o and Adjap, starting in 2001. The objective of this exercise was to support these communities to produce a map of their lands and to compare this to the provisional zoning plan for forest regions. This was the first time that this approach, involving concerned indigenous communities throughout the process, had been undertaken anywhere in the Congo Basin. This pilot phase allowed us to support the map production of about 13 more villages including Djouzé, Mebane, Bidoumba, Nyabibété, Mfem, Miatta, Alop, Minko'omesseng, Mveng, Nkolenyeng, Okweng, Djouzé and Akonetse.
This work was undertaken with the National Institute of Cartography (NIC), which provided technical support in the form of training in the use of GPS, data collection and the finalisation of maps.”


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