Friday, September 02, 2016

Powerful maps: how building 3D models is helping rural communities to make their voices heard

A process of building three-dimensional physical models in a village setting is helping to bring together traditional and modern scientific knowledge to tackle challenges ranging from soil degradation to land use planning, and from forest management to climate change. The technique, known as Participatory 3-dimensional modelling (P3DM) enables marginalised communities to present their territory – together with their own valuable knowledge – in a visual form, offering them the opportunity to protect precious natural resources from outside threats and preserve them for future generations. Some of the field experiences have been published in a new report. The Power of Maps: Bringing the third dimension to the negotiation table is published by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), which has been in the forefront of promoting the practice across African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

Developed in the early 1990s in Southeast Asia, P3DM is rapidly gaining ground in other parts of the developing world. Participatory 3D models, made out of cardboard and illustrated with coloured paints, pushpins and yarn, portray land cover, such as farmland, rivers and forests, as well as other features, including coastal resources and sea depth. Uniquely, they also depict traditional knowledge, such as ancestral land rights and sacred places. These features are generally supplied by elders in the community, while younger members build the map itself. The result is a free standing relief model which provides tangible evidence of local knowledge, serving as an effective tool for analysis, decision-making, advocacy, action and monitoring.

“Knowledge built up over time and passed from generation to generation represents a unique asset for rural communities when it comes to their land, forest and aquatic resources,” said CTA Director Michael Hailu. “The ability to collate and geo-reference local knowledge and represent it in the form of 3-dimensional maps offers a unique opportunity for local communities to have a voice in decisions on how to sustainably manage their resources.

Often, the process of participatory 3-dimensional modelling is in itself empowering, bringing communities and generations together and helping them to visualise the extent of their resources, and how climate change and other threats, such as mining and deforestation, may be affecting them. Once completed, the physical model remains with the community.

Case studies presented from Ethiopia, Fiji and Madagascar show how P3DM has led to the development of community-driven natural resource management plans. Other examples of P3DM initiatives described in the book demonstrate how the technique can give marginalised rural people a voice to make their case heard. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Bambuti-Batwa pygmy community used a P3DM exercise to drive talks on what they claim is the injustice of being evicted from the territory they had inhabited for generations.

Three-dimensional mapping has helped the Kenyan hunter-gatherer Ogiek tribe to document its ancestral land rights and knowledge systems. Meanwhile, In Tobago, a Caribbean island that has suffered a series of extreme climate events in recent years, P3DM has been used to guide community-driven disaster risk reduction strategies.

South-South cooperation is helping to make the practice of participatory 3-dimensional modelling become better known and CTA has been closely involved in efforts to share training and facilitation between Caribbean and Pacific Islands and a range of African countries.

Experiences of P3DM can generate other benefits, such as offering new skills and self-confidence to individuals engaged in the process and funding for communities to implement activities. A case in point is Grenada, where a participatory 3D model had a direct impact on the community that created it, by mobilising donor funding for climate change adaptation on a stretch of the coastline badly affected by hurricane damage.

Participatory 3D modelling, the process documented in this book, has proved to be successful in eliciting substantial amounts of what is termed as tacit knowledge from individuals, to collate individual world views into a shared, visible and tangible representation of collegial knowledge,” said Senior Programme Coordinator Giacomo Rambaldi, who has led CTA’s involvement in P3DM. Adding ‘location’ to any piece of information or datum makes it even more relevant. Hence P3DM enables knowledge holders to visualise and geo-reference their traditional knowledge and to engage outsiders in a peer-to-peer dialogue.”

You can order a hard copy and download the book.

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