Saturday, May 16, 2015

Participatory 3 Dimensional Modelling in Madagascar: A process to be replicated in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Participatory three-dimensional modelling (P3DM) has already shown considerable potential in a number of countries with regard to the mobilisation of communities in the context of bottom-up planning and management of natural resources.  In Madagascar, the very first P3DM exercise took place in February 2015, in the Avaratrambolo water catchment area.

The exercise was conducted in a rural farming area some 35 km from the Madagascan capital, Antananarivo. The population of this region, situated in the northern part of the island, makes a living almost exclusively from rice farming, with weak purchasing power and poor access to the markets. The rural landscape is dominated by paddy fields, small forest plantations and a small remnant of natural forest. The catchment represents the source of a number of important river courses.
The P3DM exercise took place within the framework of a project aimed at promoting agriculture and water management called "Let's move towards change", Ndao hivoatra in the Madagascan language. This project, which involves several local, national and international, has gained special significance for local communities.

As in many parts of Africa, property issues are very sensitive in Madagascar. This explains why, in recent years local communities have ben reluctant in participating in a number of rural development projects. The P3DM exercise in Avaratrambolo made a significant contribution to removing concerns related to potential land grabbing. As with earlier projects in the area, the Ndao hivoatra project was thought by rural communities to be a trick to take over ancestral land for the benefit of multinationals that pose as promoters of rural development in remote areas of Africa. In spite of the numerous awareness-raising meetings which preceded the P3DM exercise communities perceived the forthcoming mapping process as a means for identifying areas which could be taken away. This had to radically change during the P3DM process …

The first phase of the exercise involved the construction of the blank 3D model. This phase was preceded by a workshop involving local facilitators and international facilitators from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as representatives of the institutions involved in the Ndao hivoatra project, to plan the process, identify preliminary equipment, logistics and define how best to engage the communities in participating. It was during this workshop that all those involved gained an understanding of the overall scope of the forthcoming mapping exercise.

The first visit by facilitators to the village of Ambohitrakely took place under a torrential downpour over a severely eroded and hardly accessible dirt road. This first activity was intended to guide schoolchildren trace and cut out cardboard layers for the construction of the 3D model. The children's work on the model sparked the curiosity of their parents. Gradually, adults including residents of nearby villages became involved in the construction of the model.

On 13 February 2015 the completed 3D model was officially displayed in the village of Ambohitrakely. In addition to representatives from the project implementing agencies, national ministries, researchers and other stakeholders, the event brought together a large and festive crowd including local, religious and traditional authorities and the local population which initially appeared reluctant to participate in the Ndao hivoatra project due to the sensitivity of the land tenure issue. The positive messages and the enthusiasm shown by the participants were a clear indicator of the behavioural change occurred. The model-making process proved to have plaid a reconciliatory role with regard to the project. Active participation of the local communities in the construction of the model and, in particular, in their driving role in defining the content of the map legend and populating the model with geo-referenced data, noticeably increased their confidence and feeling of ownership and control of the process. Residents now feel that the 3D model belongs to them as a tool to guide the implementation of the Ndao hivoatra project.

P3DM proved to be a powerful process for land and forest planning, management and development. The success of this exercise in Madagascar points to the usefulness and the opportunity for replicating the process elsewhere in Africa. For example, the exercise could be run in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the process of governance and management of community forests continues to progress. The publication of Decree No. 14/018 dated 2 August 2014 sets the modalities for allocating forest concessions to local communities in the DRC. Concerned local communities and Indigenous Peoples would benefit from P3DM to identify their ancestral territories and effectively plan and implement both conservation and sustainable development projects. The creation and operationalisation of the community forests and the recognition of indigenous and community conserved areas (ICCAs) in the DRC is a process that requires not only the passing of pertinent legislation, but also, and in particular, a commitment on the part of a range of stakeholders. Without obtaining full support from technical, scientific and financial stakeholders, the good will of the DRC government may be in vain.

Written by Dominique Bikaba, Strong Roots Congo

Notes from the author: The success of this first P3DM process in Madagascar can be credited also to the qualities and skills of the lead facilitator Mr Barthélemy Boika, who demonstrated his talents as an educator and community motivator. My thanks also go to the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) for its technical inputs and for supporting my participation in the exercise.

The project « ndao hivoatra » has been launched by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) with funding provided by the World Bank to promote sustainable rural development. Le projet is implemented by Artelia Madagascar with technical support provided by Farming and Technology for Africa (FTA) in partnership with FOFIFA (Centre National de la Recherche Appliquée au Développement Rural). The P3DM exercise which represents a punctual component of the overall project has been supported technically and financially by CTA.

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