Saturday, January 09, 2016

Knowledge and cultural transmission in Kenyan participatory 3D mapping

This film interview of Dr. Nigel Crawhall, Director of Secretariat at the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC), is his explanation of the intergenerational ecological knowledge transmission in participatory 3-dimensional modelling (P3DM). Crawhall discusses his observations on intergenerational interaction when the Ogiek community of Nessuit, Kenya, built a geo-referenced 3D model of their mountain forest landscape in 2006.

The mapping exercise was attended by representatives from 21 Ogiek clans, and an area of 52,800 hectares (ha) was mapped at a scale of 1:10,000. Participants included close to 120 representatives from the different clans, both men and women. Elders populated the model with their memories dating back to 1925 and reconstructed the landscape as it was at that time. The model displays 64 data layers including different types of areas, points, and lines. In 2008, the Ogiek people expanded the coverage of the model to include further 40,000 ha.

This kind of physical 3D model creation can serve the community for the following:

  • Generating spatial geo-referenced data based on a community perspective on land use, vegetation cover, resource distribution, tenure, etc;
  • Storing and displaying such data at a community level;
  • Supporting intra- and inter-generational knowledge exchange;
  • Adding value and authority to local knowledge;
  • Involving communities in developing resource use and management knowledge;
  • Conducting preliminary collaborative research on distribution of species;
  • Monitoring jointly with the concerned stakeholders' changes in land use, vegetation cover, human settlement, infrastructure development, and other features;
  • Serving as a benchmark; and
  • Supporting the learning of local geography and resource use.

The purpose of the model was to record traditional territory and land use patterns, as well as memory and history from a land use and environmental perspective. As reported here, through map building and coding, the clan experienced participatory community enthusiasm and cooperation between elders, young adults, and youth on intergenerational knowledge, language, and heritage transfer, tapping knowledge otherwise lost over time. The 3D style of the map encouraged explanation of the clan’s historical land use patterns and included creating a key or legend to increase understanding of the interrelationships of land, vegetation, altitude, and layers more of information, leading to more complex environmental knowledge that other methods, for example walking on the land, might not provide.

In addition, young people gave attention to the process and listened while elders debated historical use patterns from their memories. A linguistic dimension, which evolved due to the use of English, Kiswahili, and Ogiek, drew out more explicit meaning of vocabulary in Ogiek. Intergenerational knowledge transfer affirmed the elders' lived experience, and the process transferred to the younger members of the community the realisation of the complexity of their environment and the depth of knowledge available to them through their elders.

Source: The Communication Initiative

More information on the case is found here.

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