Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blank 3D model of Tobago accommodates first set of community inputs

Informants express pleasure at being part of exercise

SCARBOROUGH, 04 October 2012.  Bubbling with excitement, informants who came from far and wide to help fill in the blank model of the P3DM of Tobago could barely contain themselves as they realize the importance of their knowledge.

Kail Zingapan, GIS expert being interviewed
by Clyde McNeil of Tobago Channel 5 
The room is buzzing with activity as the informants locate features on the map.  Four groups of trainee facilitators accompany Tobago residents in transferring their mental maps on the 3D model under the watchful eye of facilitators from the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), GIS expert Kail Zingapan from the Philippines and Kenn Mondiai of Partners with Melanesians (PwM). .

The island of Tobago, for which the participatory 3D model is being developed, is an island nation and part of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.  Tobago is the smaller of the two islands and has a land mass of approximately 300 km².  The P3D model represent the island at a 1:10,000 scale hence one centimetre on the model corresponds to 100 meters on the ground.  The island is home to the largest brain coral in the world and the oldest Forest Reserve in the Western Hemisphere - the Main Ridge Forest Reserve.

Democracy Walls

Teenager Zenniethe Balfour (in blue shirt) transposes data
on the model based on her recollection from memory
Not only are informants transferring their personal knowledge of Tobago, and its surrounding waters up to a depth of -100 meters to the model, but they are also sharing their feelings about the activity on a "Democracy Wall" in a specially marked off area on the wall of the workshop area.

The "Democracy Wall" provides one additional channel for participants to express themselves.  To contribute to the Wall, the informants write their notes on small pieces of paper which they then post onto the Wall with tape.  Open ended headings such as ‘I believe …’ and ‘I feel …’ stimulate contribution.

Teenager Zenniethe Balfour of the Anse Fromage Ecological Environmental Protection Organisation - Golden Lane sticks her contribution to the Wall:  “I did not know Tobago is shaped like a snake”.  She says that listening to the contributions of others as they transfer images from their mental maps is a learning experience.  In fact, she says she is learning many new things about her community although she has been living there for the past eighteen years.

Asked to convey her feelings about contributing to the blank model, Zenniethe smiles broadly and says she feels “important”.  In terms of the value of the entire exercise, she says there is value in knowing the natural resources in one’s community.  “As you become aware you will instinctively protect”, she says.

Selecting data for the model

Goldberg Job of Belle Garden shares his views during the
orientation  session prior to engaging with the 3D model
Prior to inserting pins and outlining yarn on the model, informants had to agree on colour codes and symbols for particular features such as different types of forests, reefs and other features of importance to them that would be located onto the model.  Symbols and colours were associated with legend items to compose the map interpretation key.  Throughout the session, informants sought clarification on what types of information could be placed on the model and how they could symbolise it in line with the existing legend.

A fisherman asks why he is seeing government offices, seaports and airports but no banks on the chart.  CANARI’s facilitator Neila Bobb-Prescott responds by asking him to what extent the position of a bank is impacted by climate change.  He scratches his head, pinches his chin, nods and moves on to another question.

Laura Williams from Anse Fromage adds detail to the model
Before engaging with the model, informants take part in short orientation sessions with facilitators.  These sessions include mutual introductions, sharing information on the 3D modelling process, climate change and what the concept of “participatory” means.  The orientation sessions also sought to learn about the informants understanding of these concepts and their views on what value they felt the development of this model has for them and would have for Tobagonians.

Laura Williams from the Anse Fromage Ecological Environmental Protection Organisation is busy working on the model, identifying areas in her village, Golden Lane.  Golden Lane is a rural village on the north eastern end of Tobago.  The Great Courland is one of a few beaches in the world where the endangered leatherback turtles gather every year to lay their eggs.  She says she is devoted to ensuring that Golden Lane is well represented; she wants it to be known that the Courland Watershed, the Great Courland, is not so great anymore as it is being heavily impacted by climate change.  Noting that deforestation is a big problem in the area, she says man is contributing to  this destruction.

Laura says the P3D model will make people of the community more aware of the impact their actions are having on the environment.  People outside of the area will also be aware of the problems, she says.

With a wealth of information being shared and mapped by the knowledge holders, the workshop facilitators are looking forward to welcoming more and more members of the communities across Tobago who are expected to arrive over the coming week.

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