Sunday, May 30, 2010

Participatory Spatial Information Management and Communication in Developing Countries / English / Français / Español

The merging of participatory development methods with geo-spatial technologies has come to be known as Participatory GIS and is now an emergent development practice in its own right. PGIS combines a range of geo-spatial information  management  tools and methods such as sketch maps, participatory 3D models, community-based air photo and satellite imagery interpretation, GPS transect walks and GIS-based cognitive mapping. Participatory GIS implies making GIT&S available to disadvantaged groups in society in order to enhance their capacity in generating, managing, analysing and communicating spatial information.

PGIS practice is geared towards community empowerment through measured, demand-driven, user-friendly and integrated applications of geo-spatial technologies. GIS-based maps and spatial analysis thus become major conduits in the process. A good PGIS practice is embedded into long-lasting and locally driven spatial decision-making processes, is flexible, adapts to different socio-cultural and bio-physical environments, depends on multidisciplinary facilitation and skills and builds essentially on visual language. If appropriately utilized, the practice should exert profound impacts on community empowerment, innovation and social change. More importantly, by placing control of access and use of culturally sensitive spatial information in the hands of those who generated them, PGIS practice can protect traditional knowledge and wisdom from external exploitation.

Effective participation is the key to good PGIS practice. Whilst the focus of traditional GIS applications is often on the outcome, PGIS initiatives tend to emphasize the processes by which outcomes are attained. At times the participatory process can obfuscate systematic inequalities through unequal and superficial participation. For example, PGIS applications may be used to legitimise decisions which in fact were taken by outsiders. The process can also easily be hijacked by community elites. For PGIS practices to be successful, they must be placed in a well thought out and demand-driven process based on the proactive collaboration of the custodians of local and traditional knowledge and of facilitators skilled in applying PGIS and transferring technical know-how to local actors. Participation thus cuts across the process from gaining a clear understanding of the existing legal and regulatory frameworks, to jointly setting project objectives, defining strategies and choosing appropriate geo-spatial information management tools. The integrated and multifaceted nature of PGIS provides legitimacy for local knowledge and generates a great sense of confidence and pride which prepares participant communities in dealing with outsiders. The process is intended to build self-esteem, raise awareness about pressing issues in the community and produce concrete and sustainable spatial solutions.

Below is the original article published on  EJISDC, an open access journal, and translations in French and Spanish done in the context of the development of the "Training Kit on Participatory Spatial Information Managamant and Communication" soon to be published by CTA and IFAD.
A vast freely accessible digital library is available at
Selected publications on the subject are available at

Thursday, May 27, 2010 Open Forum on Participatory Geographic Information Systems and Technologies serves as a global avenue for discussing issues, sharing experiences and good practices related to community mapping, public participation GIS (PPGIS), participatory GIS (PGIS) and other geographic information technologies used to support integrated conservation and development, sustainable natural resource management and customary property rights in developing countries and among indigenous people worldwide. 
Members of the network are able to share information and lessons learned, post questions and announcements and upload and download resource documents which are relevant to the practice. 
The site is an online gateway for accessing discussion lists in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, all dealing with participatory mapping.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mapping Indigenous Lands / Mapeo de tierras indígenas / Cartographier les territoires autochtones

We have just completed the translation of this important publication by Mac Chapin & colleagues.
Here are the links to the documents.
  • Mac Chapin, Zachary Lamb, and Bill Threlkeld. Mapping Indigenous Lands. Annual Review of Anthropology 34 (2005) : 619-639
  • Mac Chapin, Zachary Lamb, and Bill Threlkeld. Mapeo de tierras indígenas. Annual Review of Anthropology 34 (2005) : 619-639 - Traducido y publicado por el Centro Técnico de Cooperación Agrícola y Rural (CTA), con autorización de ―Annual Review of Anthropology‖
  • Mac Chapin, Zachary Lamb, and Bill Threlkeld. Cartographier les territoires autochtones. Annual Review of Anthropology 34 (2005) : 619-639 - Traduit et publié par le Centre Technique de Coopération Agricole et Rurale (CTA) avec la permission de « Annual Review of Anthropology »

Monday, May 17, 2010

Participatory Action Research Approaches and Methods: Connecting People, Participation and Place

Participatory Action Research (PAR) approaches and methods have seen an explosion of recent interest in the social and environmental sciences. PAR involves collaborative research, education and action which is oriented towards social change, representing a major epistemological challenge to mainstream research traditions. It has recently been the subject of heated critique and debate and rapid theoretical and methodological development.

This book captures these developments, exploring the justification, theorisation, practice and implications of PAR. It offers a critical introduction to understanding and working with PAR in different social, spatial and institutional contexts. The authors engage with PAR’s radical potential, while maintaining a critical awareness of its challenges and dangers. The book is divided into three parts. The first part explores the intellectual, ethical and pragmatic contexts of PAR; the development and diversity of approaches to PAR; recent poststructuralist perspectives on PAR as a form of power; the ethic of participation; and issues of safety and well-being. Part two is a critical exploration of the politics, places and practices of PAR. Contributors draw on diverse research experiences with differently situated groups and issues including environmentally sustainable practices, family livelihoods, sexual health, gendered experiences of employment, and specific communities such as people with disabilities, migrant groups, and young people. The principles, dilemmas and strategies associated with participatory approaches and methods including diagramming, cartographies, art, theatre, photovoice, video and geographical information systems are also discussed. Part three reflects on how effective PAR is, including the analysis of its products and processes, participatory learning, representation and dissemination, institutional benefits and challenges, and working between research, action, activism and change.

The authors find that a spatial perspective and an attention to scale offer helpful means of negotiating the potentials and paradoxes of PAR. This approach responds to critiques of PAR by highlighting how the spatial politics of practising participation can be mobilised to create more effective and just research processes and outcomes. The book adds significant weight to the recent critical reappraisal of PAR, suggesting why, when, where and how we might take forward PAR’s commitment to enabling collaborative social transformation. It will be particularly useful to researchers and students of Human Geography, Development Studies and Sociology.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Choosing a participatory mapping method versus another

PGIS practitioners make use of a range of low and high tech geographic information technologies for acquisition, validation, analysis, representation and sharing of geo-spatial information. There are a number of factors that influence the choice of one method over another or the combination of more than one method. Factors include the ‘purpose behind the initiative’, the ‘resources available’ and the ‘institutional setting or environment’.
The choice of method should emanate predominantly from within the community . Participatory maps often represent a socially or culturally distinct understanding of land and seascapes and include information that is excluded from mainstream maps. These usually represent the views of the dominant sectors of society. Participatory maps can pose alternatives to the languages and images of the existing power structures and become a medium of empowerment by allowing local communities to represent themselves spatially.

For this reason, participatory maps should be made through an inclusive process at community level. The higher the level of participation by all members of the community, the more beneficial the outcome because the final maps, and related outputs like multimedia, will reflect the collective knowledge, concerns and aspirations.

In September 2010, CTA and IFAD will launch a Training Kit dedicated to “Participatory Spatial Information Management and Communication” and having the specific objective of supporting the spread of good practice in generating, managing, analysing and communicating spatial information. More information on the training kit will be made available on the Internet and on this blog.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Participatory Video Validates Geo-Tagging Evidences on Mining Threats to Palawan Ecology and Indigenous Livelihoods

A field update from the ALDAW Network (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch)
May 2010

Between July and September 2009, a mission organized by the Philippines-based Ancestral Land/Domain Watch (ALDAW) and the Centre for Biocultural Diversity (CBCD) at the University of Kent demonstrated how the ecological balance and the survival of vulnerable indigenous communities on Palawan Island (a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” program of UNESCO) is being threatened by the ongoing mining rush. The mission’s actual ‘matching’ of collected GPS data to photographs shows that the Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) of mining firms, such as MacroAsia and Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporations, overlap with precious watersheds and the so called “core zones” of maximum protection. During the mission indigenous communities were engaged in the making and editing of participatory videos.

Today the voices of these isolated Palawan communities are available through the following links: