Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Saramakan’s forests: watercourses at the core of a Participatory 3D Modelling exercise along the Upper Suriname River

JAW JAW, SURINAME, 6 September 2014. From Atjoni, Suriname, it takes 40 minutes by motorised longboat to reach Jaw Jaw, a village sprinkled along the shores of the mighty upper Suriname River. This area is home to approximately 17,000 Afro-Surinamese people belonging to the Saramakan tribe. These people survive on shifting cultivation, fishing, hunting, harvesting of timber and non-timber forests products, boat transport services, government employment and remittances from outside the area.

Saramaka Peoples populating the 3D model
with recollections from memory
Over a 10-day period some 100 representatives from 14 villages (representing a population of approximately 5,000 people) bordering the Suriname River downstream of the village of Lespansi worked together to assemble a stunning 1:15,000 scale three-dimensional (3D) physical map of an area covering approximately 2,160 km2. Youngsters (mainly girls) from Jaw Jaw village assembled the blank model under the guidance of representatives from Tropenbos International Suriname and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA). Saramakan adults (men and women), including elders, populated the model with 38 types of feature they consider relevant for their orientation, livelihoods and culture.

The village representatives populated the map with features they consider as relevant for their orientation, livelihoods and culture. The final map legend account for a total of 38 features depicted as points (21), lines (9) and polygons (8). With free prior and informed consent obtained from community representatives, the datasets were captured using high-resolution digital photography and will be digitised and imported into a GIS environment held in trust by Tropenbos.

In the process of populating the 3D model with information, it appeared that – in the absence of outstanding landmarks like hills or mountains  (the mapped area is relatively flat) – the Saramaka used water courses to orient themselves on the map. Hence, they first had to discuss and reach general consensus on the location and names of all watercourses in the areas they were concerned with. This led them to identify five types of watercourses, differentiated according to width, navigability and seasonal accessibility by boat.

Participants in the closing ceremony
On Saturday, 6 September 2014, representatives of the local communities presented their work to representatives of government agencies (the Ministry of Regional Development, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, the Commission on Ordering of the Gold Mining Sector in Suriname [OGS] and the Foundation for Forest Management and Production Control [SBB]), CTA, the Foundation for Development of the Hinterlands (FOB) and non-governmental organisations (WWF-GuianasTropenbos International Suriname, Amazon Conservation Team [ACT], the Association of Indigenous Village Chiefs in Suriname [VIDS]), community-based organisations (Wan Mama Pikin and The Association of Saramaka Authorities [VSG]), the private sector (Lodgeholders upper Suriname River [LBS]) and the national media (DWT and Surinaamse Televisie Stichting [STVS]).

The local community representatives presented the 3D map and explained the process that led to the formulation of the map legend and its fine-tuning and updating and described the animated discussions that led to the population of the blank model. Proudly, they stated that the model will be hosted within one of their villages that is easily accessible to outsiders to facilitate negotiations and planning processes. The villagers now consider the 3D model as a tool for planning their own development and interacting with developers, investors and policy makers.

The head of Jaw Jaw village, Mr Erwin Fonkel, made a key point in his interview with STVS TV: “I find this mapping exercise very important, because in the past we did some mapping but failed to include a lot of information. Now we have elaborated the map ourselves and we had a stronger voice on defining its content. In maps produced in the past several important locations, creeks and places where you can find resources and generate income, were not included.

The Productive Landscape Programme of Tropenbos International Suriname and the Capacity Building Strategy for Land Use Planning in Suriname of WWF Guianas will use the 3D model to involve stakeholders in elaborating land-use scenarios and conducting participatory assessments of ecosystem services. As anticipated by several local captains, the 3D model, now under the custodianship of the Saramaka people, will be used to elaborate proposals for investments in local infrastructure and sustainable development such as electrification and ecotourism.

View of the Upper Suriname River at Jaw Jaw

Jaw Jaw village around the community meeting point where the
3D model was manufactured
Note: This activity took place in the context of the project “Modelling trade-offs between land-use scenarios and ecosystem services in the upper Suriname River area”. The CTA-funded participatory mapping component  was conceived to empower local communities to have a voice and play an active role in managing their land and natural resources and decision-making processes that affect these.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Participatory 3D mapping for DRR in Jelapan, Sindumartani, Sleman, Indonesia

As the most active volcano in Indonesia, Merapi Volcano has been threatened the life of people surrounding its slope either by primary hazard in form of pyroclastic flow and secondary hazard in form of debris flow. Therefore, disaster risk reduction (DRR) effort become an important thing to be done in the area. Integrating different stakeholders is one of the most pressing contemporary needs for enhancing disaster risk reduction. The participation of such a large range of actors in DRR allows for the integration of local and scientific knowledge as well as top-down and bottom-up actions.
Methods that used for this research is participatory three dimensional mapping (P3DM). P3DM provided a tool of dialogue between local people, scientists and local government. All stakeholders were able to contribute their knowledge on the same tool. P3DM is credible to both locals, who build the map and plot most of the information and to scientists and government representatives who can easily overlap their own data and plans. In the process, NGO/academic partners served as facilitators and moderators. Such a dialogue resulted in concerted actions including both bottom-up and top-down measures to enhance disaster risk reduction.

Results showed that from the three dimensional (3D) map, participants which consist of local community and representative of local government, could identify all aspects which needed to enhance disaster risk reduction in the study area. Those aspects are affected area, distribution of vulnerable group which consist of children, old people, people with disability, and pregnant woman, also meeting point for each neighborhood system and evacuation route which can be used to evacuate when the pyroclastic and debris flow from Merapi volcano reach the area. Those aspects were displayed in the 3D maps using clear symbol and legend which are depicted in push-pins (points), yarns (lines), and paint (polygons).

Read full paper: on ScienceDirect

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

From Solomon Islands to the Philippines: my PGIS learning journey – Participatory data extraction and digitization (blog post 5)

Photo credit: Melvin Purzuelo
On July 15, we had another PGIS orientation session. I had the privilege to be a part of the first participatory data extraction and digitisation process which occurred in Barangay Sua. The huge amount of information displayed on the model and therefore the amount of data to be digitised required the REBUILD Project management to allocate additional staff to oversee the digitising work. At least three local government officials from the Municipality of San Dionisio and two leading staff of the REBUILD Project attended the session. The training conducted by Green Forum-Western Visayas focused on the use of QGIS for digitising the data extracted from the 3D model of Barangay Sua. In the course of the digitising process, I realized that most data depicted on the 3D model represent infrastructure and habitats that were destroyed by super typhoon Yolanda. Although no longer present, these were located by the villagers in order to conduct a proper vulnerability assessment. They considered that visualising a complete data-set of the pre-typhoon situation and comparing it with the present conditions would enable them to gain a better understanding of possible courses of action. As an example, they cited the introduction of storm resistant infrastructures and the design of evacuation plans which would reduce risks related to natural calamities.

A total of six P3DM exercises were conducted by the REBUILD Project. It is worth mentioning that in addition to facilitating PGIS processes, the REBUILD Project staff implements livelihood projects.

Monday, July 14, 2014

From Solomon Islands to the Philippines: my PGIS learning journey – QGIS introduction and P3DM in action (blog post 4)

On July 14, I was introduced to the free and open source software (FOSS), QGIS (QuantumGIS) to be used in the PGIS process. The REBUILD Project deploys two facilitators stationed at the San Dionosio office to implement the disaster rehabilitation program and livelihood strategy. Given these circumstances, I had the opportunity to work with the QGIS software for one day. Yet, Melvin was really helpful in teaching me the QGIS essentials and introducing me to a range of FOSS GIS software applications which are available on the web. In the end, my learning process of QGIS was much easier than expected. 

Later in the day, we went to a local fishing village to work with a non-indigenous community in Sua, a Barangay (administrative unit within a municipality) located along the San Dionisio coastline. Here, we conducted a community consultation meeting. While discussing the project with the community, the importance of collaboration and participation was evident. Last June 2014, the community worked together to construct a 3D map of their location. The 3D map was overlaid with a transparent plastic sheet, where information layers were depicted by locals. From the conversations I had, the map clearly indicates an effective medium for participatory discussions. It was nice to see a couple of local Barangay councillors and their secretary, partake in the consultation process with the REBUILD Project and Green Forum-Western Visayas staff. The active participation of the Barangay officials clearly demonstrated that the local government is aware and committed to address the damages caused by the super typhoon Yolanda. The facilitating team, however, pushed for a more direct cross-disciplinary and multi-sectoral participation from those higher up in the government. Furthermore, it was recalled that while constructing the 3D model, the residents of Barangay Sua managed to outline their administrative boundary and to come to an agreement about it with the neighbouring Barangay Tiabas.

Photo credit: Melvin Purzuelo
I was struck by the ease and dynamic use of the 3D model. It did not become redundant or obsolete, even if it had been completed a month earlier. On the contrary, it gained even more relevance as a reliable repository of geo-referenced data generated by and for the community. The enthusiastic reaction demonstrated by the local women to the consultation process was really inspiring. They shared their views and opinions with respect to the need to formulate a Disaster Risk Reduction Plan which could fit well with the Community Climate Change Adaptation Plan. Both plans will be appraised by the Barangay community. The villagers themselves attest that the model will be revisited at regular intervals based on their information needs or at the request of external agencies. From my perspective, the 3D model is a true representation of the communities’ spatial knowledge concerning the entire locality and the livelihoods of the residents. The 3D model enables residents to effectively respond to emerging / changing situations.

In observing the consultation process, I was reminded that strategic decisions must offer some degree of flexibility to avoid becoming irreversible when implemented. Therefore the decision making process should be based on quality data, adequate resources and sufficient time allocation. In my opinion, the P3DM process undertaken by this community met these requirements. During the consultation I noted that the model was constantly referred to when analysing and identifying the risks inherent to their current and future livelihoods and security. The model encourages the planning and distribution of future activities in collaboration with the facilitators.

Photo credit: Melvin Purzuelo
The instances of the consultation process that are so vivid in my memory are those linked to residents showing grief and despair when sharing their stories. They explicitly used the model to describe the impact of super typhoon Yolanda and recall the life-threatening ordeal they experienced. The typhoon caused devastation, loss of property and lives and internal displacement. It severely affected to the habitats essential to the community subsistence, and in general, the existence of a once prideful fishing community. In response to such terrible consequences, the facilitating team from the REBUILD Project used the model to revive some hope in the midst of community’s despair. By autonomously analysing their situation, its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, residents were able to plan a concrete way forward leading to regain to a 'normal' way of life.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

From Solomon Islands to the Philippines: my PGIS learning journey – Preparations and challenging encounters (blog post 3)

On July 11, I arrived in the Philippines, after a series of flights.

View Don's Journey in a larger map

I was welcomed at the Iloilo Airport by Melvin Purzuelo coordinator of the Green Forum-Western Visayas (my local mentor) and driven to my accommodation. I was briefed on the following day about the upcoming activities. On July 13, we went to the REBUILD Project Implementation Centre in San Dionisio. However we had to adjust our travel plans due to ensure travellers safety in an area which has been affected by super typhoon Yolanda. Recent past has witnessed a couple of incidents along the San Dionisio and Estancia Highway, involving armed robberies that included loss of lives. The locals believe that displaced people affected by the super typhoon Yolanda who are dispossessed and resort to illegal activities to sustain their living. We therefore were advised to be vigilant at all times and take the necessary precautions while travelling within the devastated area. Yet, the PGIS activities were maintained as planned.

While working with Melvin, I took the opportunity for preparing the base map for organising a similar 3D modelling exercise to the one back home in Solomon Islands. We discovered that the topographic maps of Solomon Islands are the work of the US air force, the same as in the Philippines. Considering that these maps were made decades ago, we realised that we had to improve them to be suitable for use in a P3DM process. I am exploring possibilities for establishing a long term partnership between our organisation in Solomon Islands and Melvin’s NGO in terms of PGIS activities.

Friday, July 11, 2014

From Solomon Islands to the Philippines: my PGIS learning journey - My expectations (blog post 2)

What I expect to gain from the Philippines P3DM / PGIS process

My overall expectations for attending the Philippines PGIS are vast. However, I shall limit the list to the following:
  1. Gain practical knowledge and skills on how to facilitate and organise stakeholders into a participatory process and to know when and how to hand over the spatial information generating process to the concerned groups.
  2. Acquire practical skills on how to select and procure appropriate inputs for the manufacture of a physical 3D map.
  3. Gain hands on experience in the process of capturing and digitizing data displayed on the model and their processing for desired outcomes.
  4. Discover appropriate approaches to assess, manage spatial data and strategise on how to use them to help concerned communities achieve their objectives 
  5. Learn how to present the output to external agencies for various purposes including, e.g. policy making, disaster recovery, land use planning, land-based conflict management, climate change adaptation.
  6. Acquire facilitator skills – maintain a collaborative, neutral presence (not too dictatorial) when populating spatial information on the model map
  7. Align, impact and measure the outcome of a P3DM on the intended scenario.
  8. Improve and advance my capacity on the use of Web 2.0 and Social Media. 
During my participation, I believe that my theoretical knowledge on the subject will be enriched by practical experience and best serve an eventual replication of the P3DM process in Solomon Islands.

Follow the learning journey of Wilfred Don Dorovoqa, a member of the Padezaka tribe in Solomon Islands. 

Supported by CTA, Wilfred Don has embarked in a journey which will bring him from Sasamuqa Village to Estancia in the Philippines where he will participate in a participatory mapping exercise. Green Forum – Western Visayas, Inc. (GF-WV) in partnership with Aksyon Klima Pilipinas and the Rebuild Project is facilitating the implementation of a  Participatory 3-Dimensional Modelling (P3DM) process in an area which was severely affected by Supertyphoon Haiyan in November  2013. GF-WV is using the P3DM as an ICT tool for allowing communities to analyse their vulnerabilities and assist them in planning for reconstruction.

From Solomon Islands to the Philippines: my PGIS learning journey - How it all started (blog post 1)

My name is Wilfred Don Dorovoqa. I am a member of the Padezaka tribe in Solomon Islands. I am about to embark on a challenging learning journey and I thought it would be interesting to document and share it with people having similar interests and aspirations.

This is my first blogpost. More will follow.

I left Sasamuqa Village (S 7°02’18.49” E 156°45’54.33”) in the early hours of June 16, 2014 by OBM boat and arrived at Gizo (S 8°06’12.99” E 156°50’27.80”) that same day, a three to four hour journey by boat.  From there, I took a passenger boat for a two day journey to Honiara (S 9°25’52.13” E 159°57’33.57”), where I am today waiting for the trip to the Philippines.

How it all started: Embarking on the P3DM / PGIS learning journey

In 2009 I came across the concept of P3DM on the Internet, while I was searching customizable mapping resources for local spatial data entry that derived from non-technical / non-machine readable formats. I was captivated by the distinct nature and approach of the P3DM process, taking into account that at that time I was already familiar with the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) concept. I assisted in a contracted PRA activity that aimed to identify and further develop livelihood measures for a localized World Wildlife Fund (WWF) conservation project based on four indigenous land owning groups of Choiseul Island, Solomon Islands, where I was holding a position as secretary for one of the groups. The conservation efforts were funded by the European Union , and led by the Ministry of Forestry in Solomon Islands.

Simultaneously, the Padezaka tribe, pursued its land based conservation initiative under a separate NGO in Solomon Islands called ‘Live and Learn’. The Padezaka tribe was eventually very fortunate to become a selected recipient of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – Small Grants Programme funds coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office based in Honiara, the capital city of Solomon Islands. As a member of the Padezaka tribe, I have very strong land and blood ties with the local community, and have been heavily involved in most of their conservation activities. The network of local protected areas attempts to conserve 17 percent of the highest priority terrestrial ecosystem of the Choiseul Island in adherence to the convention on biodiversity to which Solomon Islands is a signatory.

My search for mapping resources on the web was motivated by the fact that three conservation land units were under WWF conservation initiatives, including the Padezaka tribal land. Here, the conservation land units were all situated in the same segment of a significant freshwater system, locally known as the Kolobangara River. Major logging activities authorised by government, occurred further upstream while  government-endorsed WWF conservation initiatives were concentrated downstream. Indeed, upstream deforestation posed a significant threat to the livelihoods of local communities. It was a counteractive measure to monitor and moderate critical changes to the natural environment. Currently, all stakeholders involved need to come to an agreement to implement an alternative measure. One possible alternative is to produce a collaborative map with detailed land use that covers the entire watershed of the Kolobangara River.

Given this, my research eventually landed me on the front steps of the local provincial planning advisor’s house, an expatriate from New Zealand working for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Solomon Islands Office. The planning advisor assisted the Choiseul government in provincial-wide planning, project implementation and monitoring. He was very helpful and promised to update me on any available opportunities that need expert assistance for a future P3DM exercise comprising the concerned land area. In anticipation, the Padezaka Tribe submitted a budget under the GEF-Small Grants Programme fund for a P3DM project in the Padezaka bio-diversity protected sites; to generate a well defined land use plan, consult, invite and include the contiguous land owning tribes for broad holistic land-based planning activities. This of course, will work if there is an environment conducive to collaborative planning that can systematically and coherently tackle the issue of the endangered watershed areas by creating a sectoral land and resource management plan in advance. We estimated that the availability of the P3DM opportunity would coincide with the disbursement and implementation of the external fund.

Our desire for P3DM does not materialise the Padezaka Conservation Project funds. These included GEF-Small Grants Programme funds that were mismanaged by the implementing NGO, which ceased to be operational whilst subjected to that same timeframe. WWF also closed its doors to the other four local land groups, perhaps due to the lapse of the funding contract. However, the Choiseul provincial advisor was true to his word and invited me to attend a P3DM introductory workshop in May 2012. It was jointly organized by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), TNC and UNDP held in the Capital of the Solomon Islands. During this organised workshop, I repeatedly called on our provincial leaders in attendance to convene an extensive P3DM of the whole Island of Choiseul but was adhered not to.

Fundamentally, this is the dominant culture in PGIS practices found in some areas of the Southern hemisphere. In the Northern hemisphere, I believe the public is more proactive in using PGIS to enhance, empower and improve their way of life. At the very structure of our society there is a lack of proactive dimensions needed to engender a collaborative planning process that measures collective growth. This weakness is inherent to those tribes whose land comprises the noted watershed area. Furthermore, the National River Act was very ineffective in dealing with large scale natural resource extractions, because it had no clear provisions for specific social and natural environment safeguards. However, I am also fully aware of the fact that some methodologies and techniques incorporated into the PRA approach have limitations for discovering effective solutions in the midst of the large scale emergence of this environmental threat.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

She becomes more beautiful: Capturing the essence of Tobago Island for a better tomorrow

The Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), the University of the West Indies (UWI), the Tobago House of Assembly, Division of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment (DAME) and the Partners with Melanesians (PwM) facilitated the building of a Participatory 3D Model (P3DM) of Tobago Island from 28th September to 12th October 2012.

The model was used as a tool to incorporate and recognize local and traditional knowledge and values into decision making about climate change adaptation.

A training of trainers in facilitating participatory approaches, with participants drawn from the Caribbean Region, was executed concurrently with the building of the P3D model of Tobago. Participants in the Training of Trainers used participatory video to evaluate the effectiveness of the use of P3DM.

The project was funded by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (UNDP GEF SGP).