Thursday, February 25, 2010

Palawan, Voices from the lost frontier

In March 2006, the Philippines’ President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has called for a revitalization of mining nation-wide. The future of Palawan, known as the Philippines’ “Last Frontier” is now under serious threat. The island was declared a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” by the UNESCO and it is also the home of vanishing and isolated indigenous communities. Despite the numerous policies and laws establishing the entire province as a protected area, Palawan is becoming one of the most attractive mining investments destinations. This documentary is the outcome of a joint effort of indigenous communities, farmers, local NGOs and international institutions.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook

Biocultural Diversity Conservation:
A Global Sourcebook

By Luisa Maffi and Ellen Woodley

Publication date: 19th February 2010

'All of the world's cultures are utterly dependent upon the biodiversity among which they live. Each culture has developed ways of adapting to their biodiversity, drawing on nature for goods, services, inspiration, mythology, and much else besides. Biocultural Diversity Conservation is a treasure trove of the many approaches that have been taken by the world's diverse cultures to maintain the biological systems upon which they depend. This invaluable resource will certainly find great utility in all parts of the world and among many disciplines. '
Jeffrey A. McNeely, Senior Science Advisor, IUCN

'Here is a treasure trove of a book, one that will truly make a difference in the world. It represents a key milestone in our global understanding of the profound and inextricable links between cultural and biological diversity. Written by two of the leading lights in this new and growing field, it is filled with important information, case studies and analyses on a global scale.'
Nancy J. Turner, University of Victoria, Canada

'At long last: an authoritative guide to biocultural conservation. This is a splendid illumination of the intermingled diversity of culture and nature ... revealing and revolutionary.'
Thomas E. Lovejoy, Biodiversity Chair, The Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, USA

The field of biocultural diversity is emerging as a dynamic, integrative approach to understanding the links between nature and culture and the interrelationships between humans and the environment at scales from the global to the local. Its multifaceted contributions have ranged from theoretical elaborations, to mappings of the overlapping distributions of biological and cultural diversity, to the development of indicators as tools to measure, assess, and monitor the state and trends of biocultural diversity, to on-the-ground implementation in field projects.

This book is a unique compendium and analysis of projects from all around the world that take an integrated biocultural approach to sustaining cultures and biodiversity. The 45 projects reviewed exemplify a new focus in conservation: this is based on the emerging realization that protecting and restoring biodiversity and maintaining and revitalizing cultural diversity and cultural vitality are intimately, indeed inextricably, interrelated.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ethics are central to community-based mapping processes

Dr. Nigel Crawhall, Director of Secretariat at the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC), a pan-African network, elaborates on the value of ethics in the context of participatory mapping processes.

More on practical ethics in PPGIS/PGIS practice is found here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mapping the Sea - Improving Livelihoods

In 2005, when the Tsunami hit Banda Aceh in Indonesia, it killed many of the elderly fishermen. Much of the traditional knowledge about the waters surrounding Banda Aceh was lost with them. Traditionally this precious knowledge was transferred from generation to generation. In the post-Tsunami vacuum, this community-led initiative was able to retrieve and document some of that endangered knowledge.

This video documents the efforts done in one community, where traditional authorities coordinated the mapping of the coastal waters including the sea floor. So far 460 km of coastline have been mapped including previously unmapped features like four seamounts, four geologic faults and eighteen coral areas. In addition to the physical data, the community documented key biodiversity areas including shark nurseries, nesting beaches, spawning grounds. Data will be used to support the development of coastal resources and fisheries management plans.

According to Sumatra Konservasi Alam this project was completed at minimal cost (less than 10% of the cost of a conventional survey) and in less than one year. More information on the initiative is found at

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ogiek Indigenous Peoples Mapping their Lands

Julius Muchemi, Executive Director of ERMIS Africa, an NGO based in Kenya, reports on a Participatory 3D Modelling exercise which occurred in Nessuit, Kenya in August 2006. In the course of the exercise - attended by representatives from 21 Ogiek clans - an area of 52,800 ha was mapped at a scale 1:10,000. participants included close to 120 representatives from the different clans, 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.

Read more ...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

GIS for Emergency Preparedness and Health Risk Reduction

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have developed rapidly in recent years and now provide powerful tools for the capture, manipulation, integration, interrogation, modelling, analysis and visualisation of data -- tools that are already used for policy support in a wide range of areas at almost all geographic and administrative levels. This holds especially for emergency preparedness and health risk reduction, which are all essentially spatial problems. To date, however, many initiatives have remained disconnected and uncoordinated, leading to less powerful, less compatible and less widely implemented systems than might otherwise have been the case. The important matters discussed here include the probabilistic nature of most environmental hazards and the semi-random factors that influence interactions between these and human exposures; the effects of temporal and spatial scales on hazard assessment and imputed risk; the effects of measurement error in risk estimation and the stratification of risks and their impacts according to socioeconomic characteristics; and the quantification of socioeconomic differences in vulnerability and susceptibility to environmental hazards. GIS are powerful analytical tools in their own right, but what is needed is much more effective communication between the many disciplines, professions and stakeholders concerned -- something which this book helps to achieve.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Report on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples in Kenya

I have just come across the report prepared in December 2006 by the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people in Kenya. Considering the current situation in Mau, I thought that it would be worth adding visibility to this public document.

I am quoting part of the text and offer a link to the full document at the bottom of this post.


C. Hunter-gatherers and forest peoples

36. Settlement schemes, logging and charcoal production have put a severe strain on Kenya’s rich and varied forests, and have resulted in the loss of the traditional habitat of Kenya’s forest peoples, the indigenous hunter-gatherers such as the Awer (Boni), Ogiek, Sengwer, Watta, and Yaaku. While existing laws are oriented to the protection of wildlife and forest resources, many of these communities can no longer live by their traditional livelihoods, and their cultures and language are rapidly vanishing as a result; illegal logging has played a major role in this as well.

37. The way of life of the Ogiek is well adapted to the Mau Forest environment where they have lived for centuries. Numbering about 20,000 countrywide, they have been dispersed and assimilated in recent decades, and dispossessed of their traditional source of livelihood. When the Mau Forest was gazetted as a National Forest in 1974, the Ogiek were evicted from their traditional habitat without prior consultation or compensation, in violation of their basic human rights. They were henceforth prevented from hunting or collecting bee honey for survival in the forest, and were reduced to a miserable subsistence on the margins of this area rich in plants and wildlife. On the other hand, illegal logging, the introduction of exotic plantations and the excision of parts of the forest for private development by outside settlers have endangered the Mau Forest as a water catchment area, as well as the country’s environmental security. The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari, signalled in his report on his mission to Kenya that the destruction of the forest has affected the rights of the Ogiek to housing, health, food and a safe environment, threatening to further destroy their cultural identity and the community as a whole (see E/CN.4/2005/48/Add.2, para. 61).

38. Despite a court injunction in their favour in 1997, the Government has proceeded to alienate Ogiek forest land, and a recent court decision does not recognize the Ogiek’s ancestral title to the forest. Still, the Government has distributed title deeds to land to several thousand Ogiek, and some non-Ogiek outsiders have tried to enrol as Ogieks in the hope that they may eventually also be given title deeds. The unresolved conflict between the Ogiek and their neighbours continues to this day. Being considered as squatters on their own land and legally banned from using the forest resources for their livelihood, their attempt to survive according to their traditional lifestyle and culture has often been criminalized and their repeated recourse to the courts has not been successful. Ogiek attribute this vulnerability to the fact that they are not recognized as a distinct tribe and therefore lack political representation. The Special Rapporteur met with members of several Ogiek villages, listened to their grievances and heard their demands for the recognition of their right to land and to maintain their traditional lifestyle in the forest.


90. In view of the above, the Special Rapporteur makes the following recommendations:

A. Recommendations to the Government


Forest areas

102. The rights of indigenous hunter-gatherer communities (particularly the Ogiek in Mau Forest) to occupy and use the resources in gazetted forest areas should be legally recognized and respected. Further excisions of gazetted forest areas and evictions of hunter-gatherers should be stopped. Titles derived from illegal excision or allocation of forest lands should be revoked, and new titles should only be granted to original inhabitants. Illegal commercial logging should be stopped.

C. Recommendations to indigenous communities and organizations
124. Indigenous peoples’ organizations are encouraged to develop concrete strategies for data collection, research and documentation to support their advocacy work both at the national and international levels.

D. Recommendations to civil society and political parties
127. NGOs and donors should strengthen their relations with indigenous communities, support their development initiatives and promote a better understanding of their demands and aspirations within Kenyan society.


Read / download the full document.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Knowledge and cultural transmission in Kenyan participatory mapping

In this 5 minute interview Dr. Nigel Crawhall, Director of Secretariat at IPACC, elaborates on 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 model of their mountain forest landscape in 2006.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Geographic Information Science and Public Participation

Computer-mediated participation is at the crossroads. In the early heady days of the digital revolution, access to "high" technologies such as GIS promised the empowerment of marginalized communities by providing data and information that was previously hidden away from public view. To a great extent, this goal has been achieved at least in the U.S. and Western Europe – data about a range of government initiatives and raw data about different aspects of spatial planning such as land use, community facilities, property ownership are available a mouse-click away. Now, that the public, have access to information, are we able to make better plans for the future of our cities and regions? Are we more inclusive in our planning efforts? Are we able to foster collaborative governance structures mediated by digital technologies?

In Geographic Information Science and Public Participation (Advances in Geographic Information Science), Dr. Laxmi Ramasubramanian discusses these issues, using a three-part structure. The first part of the book is theoretical – it reviews the literature in the field, establishes a framework to organize the literature and to link three different subject areas (participation and community development, GIS and other related technologies, and planning processes). The second part of the book discusses a series of success stories, case studies that review actual situations where participatory planning using GIS has enabled community wellbeing and empowerment. These case studies vary in scale and focus on different planning issues (planning broadly defined). The final part of the book steps back to review alternative scenarios for the future, exploring where we are headed, as the technologies we are using to plan rapidly change.

The foreword for the book is written by Prof. Bill Huxhold.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Digital Cartography

Digital Cartography from on Vimeo.

By Andrew Ellis, Alexander Wang, Students at the Dynamic Media Institute, Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Digital Cartography is a short documentary film on the transition of maps into their digital form. In this film we speak with programmer and mapmaker Jeffrey Warren from the MIT Media Lab and Dietmar Offenhuber from SENSEable City Lab at MIT. We explore the cultural, economic and technical aspects of mapmaking and how they affect the way we communicate with one another.

In our interviews with Jeffrey and Dietmar we learn about the social and geographical ramifications of building maps and how designers can implement their literacy in communication design to explore different avenues for mapping. Participatory mapping such as Open Street Maps and psychogeography and the virtual dérive are some of the themes discussed around the history and future of mapping in the digital age. Jeffrey gives us a demonstration on low cost arial photography using a helium balloon and a consumer digital camera to stitch photos onto google maps.

Metodología participativa para construir una maqueta 3D en Telpaneca, Nicaragua

Este video trata sobre la construcción de una maqueta (un mapa en 3 dimensiones) de un territorio rural. Se basa en una experiencia que se dió con pueblos indígenas en los territorios de Telpaneca, en Nicaragua.

El video es una producción de la Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos (UNAG) de Nueva Segovia, y la ONG francesa Agrónomos y Veterinarios Sin Fronteras (AVSF).

Monday, February 01, 2010

Community Mapping in Tsunami Affected Areas in Aceh, Indonesia

A touching 10-minute video production on how community mapping has been used in post-Tsunami Aceh, Indonesia.

The documentary has been jointly produced by the Indonesia Community Mapping Network or Jaringan Kerja Pemetaan Partisipatif (JKPP), and the Center for people Economic Development or Yayasan Rumpun Bambu Indonesia (YRBI).

More videos on participatory mapping are found here.