What is Participatory mapping?
What we support and promote at CTA goes beyond “making maps at community level”. We look at a practice dealing with generating, managing, analysing and communicating spatial information in a bottom-up mode. Mapmaking is considered as a step in a broader process leading to community empowerment by adding value and authority to local spatial knowledge.
How far can participatory mapping support decision-making ?
When it comes to accessing, using and / or managing natural resources, spatial dimensions always influence decision-making. Maps drawn in the sand on paper or on a computer screen are an accepted support to analysing spatially defined issues and getting the broader view which is essential in the process of making decisions. In addition maps are based on a visual language made of colours and symbols, thus are understandable also by illiterate people or less educated people.
What benefits can rural communities derive from the practice ?
The process leading to the production of maps is more important than the outputs themselves, as knowledge holders learn by doing. The process is quite motivating and often leads to stronger identity and cohesion among community members. On the top of that maps are powerful (and quite convincing) media which can be used to convey local concerns and aspirations to decision- and policy makers.
How do you ensure sustainability of the outcome of participatory mapping initiatives ?
What should be done to prevent outsiders from appropriating themselves of the data generated during a participatory mapping exercise and to derive exclusive benefit from these ?
Good practice recommends that those assisting knowledge holders in the process are trusted intermediaries and that prior informed consent is obtained. Map making is a political process which can have positive or negative impacts. Drawing a line on a map may ignite conflict. How many wars have been fought over a line? Intermediaries facilitating map-making processes should be aware of these implication and operate at the highest ethical standards. Being or not-being on a map is a trade-off. Nowadays if you are not on a map, you do not exist.
More information on what CTA does in the context of PGIS practice is found here: http://pgis.cta.int