Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mapping deep in the jungle: our experience among Saramaccan Peoples

In July 2015 local residents and leaders from 14 indigenous Saramaccan villages, located along the upper Suriname River, collaborated with local and international NGOs to create a physical 3D representation of their traditional land and waters using participatory three-dimensional modelling (P3DM). The mapped area is sparsely populated and characterised by externally-driven logging and mining activities. The mapping process, provided participants with a comprehensive and detailed understanding of the landscape, its interlocked ecosystems, and potential impacts of road development and related extractive activities. This enabled them to formulate informed opinions on how best to develop, preserve and manage the traditional territories.

The process has highlighted how effective P3DM is when it comes to bottom-up and inclusive landscape planning. Helping communities to build a 3D model of their territory is proving to be an effective way for knowledge held by different individuals to be collated, geo-referenced and visualised, thus generating a powerful pool of data mostly unknown to the outside world. If strategically used, this data could shift the balance of power in favour of those who would otherwise not be included in decision-making processes.

The blog below was written by Nicholas Fields (INTASAVE Caribbean/CARIBSAVE) and Gaitrie Satnarain (CARIBSAVE Associate at the Anton de Kom University of Suriname).

CARIBSAVE was invited by Tropenbos International Suriname (TBI) and CTA to participate in a Participatory three-dimensional modelling (P3DM) exercise, conducted on 21–31 July 2015, as part of the above-mentioned project. Our group included representatives from TBI (including persons of Saramaccan origin), students and staff from the Anton de Kom University of Suriname, and ourselves – representing CARIBSAVE. Sponsored by CTA, our participation in the exercise helped us to understand and appreciate the P3DM process and now enables us to replicate it within our own projects in the Caribbean region. It is our intention to share what we have learned with our colleagues and build capacity within our own organisation.

What is P3DM?

P3DM is an inclusive process of building a physical 3D model of a specific area that details how communities use the natural environment – has demonstrated its significance and practicality beyond rudimentary research and data collection purposes. P3DM has proved to be an effective tool for bringing a diverse group of stakeholders, including representatives from the villages, community-based and non-governmental organisations, technical people and policy-makers, to the table to exchange ideas, perspectives and information; strengthen and build new relationships; support decision-making related to land use; and re-invigorate a desire to protect the environment and to use our resources sustainably for the benefit of current and coming generations.

A long journey to a remote location

On the first day we travelled three hours by bus followed by two hours by canoe to the Saramaccan village of Pikin Slee (which means ‘small village’ – although it is, ironically, one of the most inhabited and visited villages in the Upper Suriname basin) and the neighbouring ecolodge, Pasensie. From the river, the village does look deceptively small, but on traversing inland you can see that the landscape is dotted with variously sized dwellings used for domestic and communal activities. Saramaccan way of life is modest, with irregular access to amenities that one would have in the city (with the exception of smartphone/mobile devices, which are abundant).

Mapping the environment

We were warmly welcomed by the villagers upon arrival. The next five days were extremely busy assembling the blank model – that is a plain, white, three-dimensional canvas prior to any painting, drawing or pinning. The blank canvas is comprised of stacked layers of foam board material, with each layer representing an altitude interval, and shaped according to the specific altitude contour. The result is a scaled and geo-referenced three-dimensional canvas of hills, valleys, plains and depressions of the real-life landscape. The actual size of the area modelled was approximately 2,232 km2 and, with a horizontal scale of 1:15,000, the model developed into a rather large construction, involving five tables of approximately 1.6 x 1.2 m each.

Model construction is exciting as well as intensive, and the teenagers from a village-based school who took part in this process would certainly agree on this! The facilitators helped the students to trace each contour onto the foam boards, cutting these accordingly and affixing each layer of board to the model. Once the foam boards were cut according to the contours and stacked, the model was covered with plaster to allow for painting, which is perhaps the most labour-intensive component of the process, requiring precision, accuracy and careful attention to detail. The team had some initial challenges with matching and/or aligning contour maps, foam board pieces and uneven table tops, as well as working with the foam board itself. Understanding the nature of the problems, considering possible corrections and subsequent improvement was an important part of the learning process.

Mapping the knowledge

The next phase of the exercise, which took another 4–4½ days, involved populating the blank model with data on land cover and use (e.g. forests, agricultural land), locations of villages and estimated populations, and types and locations of activities associated with the villages and their inhabitants. The map legend – outlining what features would be located and visualised on the model – was finalised beforehand by the facilitators and representatives from the different villages located within the modelled area.

This stage was the most crucial and sensitive. Local residents and leaders had full autonomy entering data on the model at this point. This helped building buy-in and ownership of the process by the villagers, and minimising interference or perception of bias by the facilitators. Local residents spearheaded the process of identifying and marking features, place names and locations of activities. The facilitators (mainly the TBI team members of Saramaccan origin) offered only moderate guidance, taking care not to influence the direction of discussion except in the interest of maintaining consistency in the use of legend items, scale, focus and time, or mediating diverging opinions when these arose. Only agreed data were placed on the model. Specific locations and activities of cultural, spiritual or – in some cases – economic significance were not visualised, in the locals’ interest of protecting their security and inviolability.

Despite the fact that locals were given autonomy at this stage, some of them were distrustful of the process, fearing possible coercion, exploitation and vested interests by outsiders. The presence and interaction of the Saramaccan facilitators in the TBI team helped to alleviate most of these fears. Still, it was intriguing to observe the sometimes animated dialogue between locals as they detailed various parts of the model – indicating primary and secondary forest areas, tracks and paths, and places of work, domestic and recreational use.

We learned a lot there by observing and implementing the P3DM activity. And the strong multi-cultural element added another dimension. The indigenous Maroon groups were working with their own set of norms, practices and structures, which were very different to those that the external facilitators were used to. Including the participants and facilitators, the 10-day exercise brought together people of at least five nationalities and ethnic groups. At any given time during the activities, there were at least three languages at play: chief of these being Saramaccan, Dutch and English, with intercessions in Spanish and Arkans. While there were some slight communication barriers, none was too difficult to overcome – in fact, this made the experience much more amusing, and there were several side-lessons in foreign language vocabulary. There is no doubt that the group of facilitators also learned much over the two weeks, and established new personal and working relationships to build on in the future.

This P3DM exercise took dedication and was a large undertaking. Significant time and resources were required to co-ordinate and complete the model, particularly when the diversity of players and relative remoteness of the beneficiary groups are taken into consideration. However, the benefits of the exercise – first-hand participation in P3DM, learning and exchanging new information, connecting with people and building new rapports – were outstanding and will be long-lasting. The students’ participation also played an important educational role. We hope that they were able to appreciate the purpose of the model and will take forward what they learned from this process as they become leaders in the future.

Further impact: applying the knowledge gained

Since taking part in the exercise, CARIBSAVE has incorporated the P3DM methodology into one of its project proposals. It is planning to use the P3DM methodology for a participatory flooding hazard mapping and zoning exercise, as part of a larger comprehensive disaster management initiative. Through this exercise, community residents would produce a model that details flooding risk areas, vulnerable persons, infrastructure and emergency facilities as the basis for developing a community response plan.

Gaitrie Satnarain from Anton de Kom University intends to further what she has gained from the exercise by incorporating P3DM as a research tool within her upcoming doctoral study proposal. At the Anton de Kom University of Suriname, the Infrastructure Department in the Faculty of Science and Technology will also discuss potential opportunities with TBI to incorporate and promote P3DM for landscape planning research. CARIBSAVE will continue to explore and incorporate the P3DM methodology into its future projects to support building knowledge and capacity in climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction and sustainable ecosystem protection and management – especially to benefit vulnerable and otherwise-marginalised groups it works with.

Who is involved?

P3DM in Suriname is led by TBI, as part of a joint multi-scale initiative to model ecosystem services and land-use scenarios in the Upper Suriname River basin (see here), in conjunction with WWF Guianas, the University of Utrecht, and the Association of Saramacca Authorities (Vereniging van Saramakaanse Gezagsdragers [VSG]). The initiative is supported by CTA and the UNDP GEF-Small Grant Programme. Through this initiative, TBI aims “to contribute to improved understanding of the impacts of modern-day human interventions on forests, landscapes and people”. One of the project's results was the construction of a number of physical 3D models to visualise and assess human-environment interactions, particularly in the Upper Suriname River basin, which is inhabited by several indigenous Maroon villages and is also the focus of local and external logging and mining extractive activities.

The enabling power of participatory 3D mapping among the Saramaccan Peoples of Suriname (part 1 & 2) from CTA on Vimeo.

Online resources on Participatory Geographic Information Systems (PGIS), including Participatory 3D Modelling (P3DM)

  • View an interactive map of the world with locations and details of known P3DM exercises
  • Visit the website on Integrated Approaches to Participatory Development (IAPAD).

Stay connected

  • Join the e-discussion around PGIS in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Are you interested in promoting the use of PGIS for adding value to traditional knowledge, empowering grassroots and conducting participatory land use planning in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries? Join us on Twitter @PGISatCTA and like our Facebook page.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Participatory 3D Modelling in Mapanas, Northern Samar, Philippines

Barangays Barangays Sta. Potenciana and Burgos in Northern Samar, Philippines constructed their Participatory 3D Models (P3DMs) with the help of friends from Citizen Disaster Response Centre (CDRC) Bobon, the Philippine Geographical Society and UNICEF Philippines.

Participatory 3D Modelling in Bobon, Northern Samar, Philippines

Barangays Dancalan, Sta. Clara and Arellano in Northern Samar, Philippines constructed their Participatory 3D Models (P3DMs) with the help of friends from Citizen Disaster Response Centre (CDRC) Bobon, the Philippine Geographical Society and UNICEF Philippines.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Participatory 3D Mapping for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Philippines

For two weeks in rural Camarines Norte, two teams of geography majors from UP Diliman facilitated in the making of several Participatory 3D Maps.

Four towns including Labnig and Dalnac in the municipality of Paracale and San Felipe and Taba-taba in the municipality of Basud all had the chance to collectively construct their own 3D Maps that highlight the disaster histories, vulnerabilities and capacities of each town.

Video by Erwin Tolentino

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Être sur une carte veut dire exister : l'expérience des Saramaca

Les communautés Saramaca du Suriname cherchent la reconnaissance de leur savoir traditionnel par le gouvernement

Le 23 février 2016, 18 représentants de la communauté Saramaca issus des régions de Brownsweg et du cours supérieur du fleuve Suriname ont rencontré des décideurs politiques et des acteurs concernés à Paramaribo, la capitale du Suriname. La rencontre a été organisée par les peuples Saramaka afin de partager les résultats d’un processus de deux ans qui a mené à la visualisation et la documentation de leurs connaissances traditionnelles d’une vaste région.

Cartes générées en utilisant des données extraites d’un modèle 3D participatif à échelle 1:15 000 de la zone de Brownsweg (produites en novembre 2015), combinées à un modèle numérique d’élévation obtenu de la Fondation pour la gestion des forêts et le contrôle de la production, au Suriname.
Ont dit qu'une image vaut mille mots. Dans ce sens, les peuvent en effet être un moyen très efficace de transmettre des messages inhérents à la distribution ou accès aux ressources. En fait, le résultat tangible du processus consistait en une série de cartes physiques et numériques générées par la communauté – des cartes dont les délégués Saramaca se montrèrent très fiers.

Les cartes ainsi que les séries de données connexes furent produites en langue Saramaca, en anglais et en néerlandais lors de trois exercices de modélisation participative en trois dimensions (MP3D) organisés en 2014 et 2015. Les exercices impliquèrent 220 habitants, y compris des femmes, des jeunes et des personnes âgées. Un film documentaire sur le processus fut publié en 2015 en langue Saramaca, en anglais et en français.

Lors de la réunion, les leaders Saramaca ont souligné l'unicité des données que les communautés impliquées sont parvenues à rassembler, à géo-référencer et à visualiser en utilisant des technologies sophistiquées comme les systèmes d'information géographique (SIG). En bénéficiant du soutien de l'extérieur, les détenteurs de savoir ont été à même de partager leurs cartes mentales et leurs souvenirs, des apports fondamentaux pour peupler les modèles en 3D vierges.

Les représentants Saramaca ont attiré l'attention sur la pertinence et la précision des données, ainsi que leur accessibilité à de tierces parties à condition d'obtenir le consentement préalable à leur utilisation. « Nous avons créé cette carte pour qu'elle soit utilisée. Nous voulons que d'autres personnes l'utilisent. La seule chose que nous demandons c'est que les données ne soient pas utilisées sans nous impliquer », soulignait l'un des représentants de la communauté.

Les délégués Saramaca ont encouragé l'utilisation des données à des fins de planification spatiale et ont lancé un appel au gouvernement et aux investisseurs du secteur privé pour que ces derniers reconnaissent les Saramaca en tant que parties prenantes principales et, par conséquent, pour qu'ils les impliquent au maximum dans la planification des exploitations forestières et dans la gestion des zones protégées et des concessions aurifères situées dans le territoire Saramaca traditionnel.

Ils ont également préconisé la reproduction de processus de MP3D dans le reste du territoire Saramaca de façon à générer une carte complète des terres Saramaca traditionnelles. Pour ce faire, ils ont exhorté le gouvernement, les organisations de développement, le secteur privé et les ONG présentes à la réunion à lever les fonds nécessaires.

L'événement était organisé par Tropenbos International Suriname, WWF Guyanas et l'Association des autorités Saramaca. Outre Tropenbos International Suriname, les sponsors du projet comprenaient le Programme de microfinancements du Fonds pour l'environnement mondial (UNDP GEF-SGP) et le CTA. Les contributions de ces organisations ont été dûment reconnues. Les participants ont notamment décrit ces contributions comme du terreau fertile pour l'autonomisation de la communauté à travers la MP3D, un processus très novateur selon eux. Les participants ont également signalé que le processus de MP3D a inspiré d'autres communautés qui sont à présent en train de demander le soutien nécessaire à la mise en œuvre de processus de MP3D dans leurs territoires.

Restez connectés

Suivez @PPGIS sur Twitter ou avec le hashtag #P3DM
Visitez le site web du CTA sur les Systèmes d'information géographique participatifs (SIGP).
Inscrivez-vous au groupe de discussion en ligne sur DGroups (francophone).

Being on a map means to exist: the Saramaccan experience

Saramaccan communities in Suriname seek government’s recognition of their traditional knowledge

On 23 February 2016, 18 Saramaccan community representatives from the Brownsweg and Upper Suriname River areas met in the capital city, Paramaribo, with key stakeholders and policymakers. The meeting was organised by the Saramaccan Peoples to share the results of a two-year process which led to the visualisation and documentation of their traditional environmental knowledge over a vast area.

Maps generated using data extracted from the 1:15000 scale participatory 3D model of the Brownsweg area (manufactured in November 2015), combined with the digital elevation model obtained from the Foundation for Forest Management and Production Control, Suriname.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words and maps may be even more effective in conveying messages when it comes to resource distribution and access. In fact the outcome of the process – which the Saramacca delegates proudly presented at the meeting – consisted of a series of community-generated physical and digital maps.

The maps and various data sets were produced in Saramaccan, English, and Dutch languages as a result of three Participatory 3D modelling (P3DM) exercises that took place in 2014 and 2015, involving 220 residents, including women, youth and the elderly. A film documentary about the process was released in 2015 in Saramaccan, English, and French.

Saramaccan leaders highlighted the uniqueness of the data the communities were able to collate, geo-reference and visualise using highly sophisticated technology, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Benefitting from external technical support, knowledge-holders were able to share their mental maps and memories which were used to populate blank 3D models.

The Saramaccan representatives drew attention to the relevance and accuracy of the data, and its accessibility to third parties, provided free prior informed consent for their use was given. "We made the map for it to be used. We want other people to make use of it. We only ask that the data is not used without involving us, the Saramaccan Peoples," concluded a community representative.

The Saramaccan delegates welcomed the use of the data for spatial planning purposes and called on the government and private investors to recognise them as key stakeholders and fully involve them when planning logging activities, protected area management and gold mining concessions within traditional Saramaccan lands.

They urged for the replication of P3DM processes in the rest of the Saramaccan territory so that a complete map of traditional Saramacca lands could be generated. To achieve this, they called on the government, development organisations, private sector, and NGOs present at the meeting to raise the necessary funds.

The event was hosted by Tropenbos International Suriname, WWF Guyanas and the Association of Saamaka Authorities.

In addition to Tropenbos International Suriname, project sponsors included the UNDP-GEF Small Grant Programme and CTA. Contributions by both organisations were duly acknowledged, with participants stating that their valuable contribution established a 'fertile ground' for community empowerment via P3DM which they considered to be a very innovative process. Participants also acknowledged that the P3DM process had inspired other communities who were now requesting support to deploy the P3DM process in their areas.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

River partners: Managing environment and disaster risk in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

River partners: Managing environment and disaster risk in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a video report on the disaster risk reduction project being implemented by the United Nations Environment Program, the Government of DRC and local communities, with the support of the European Union.

Flooding and soil erosion are major hazards that threaten the Lukaya River basin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Located in the outskirts of Kinshasa, this basin is an important source of water supply for the capital. This pilot project will demonstrate how ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (eco-DRR) can be integrated into c devel
opment planning. Upstream and downstream river users are brought together to tackle disaster risk and development planning in a more integrated manner. Participatory 3D Modelling (P3DM) is used in the process.

Partenaires de la Rivière: Gestion de l'environnement et des risques de catastrophes en République Démocratique du Congo est une vidéo sur le projet de réduction de risques de catastrophes mis en oeuvre par le Programme de Nations Unies pour l'Environnement, le Gouvernement de la RDC et les communautés locales, avec le soutien de l'Union Européenne.

Les inondations et l'érosion du sol sont des aléas majeurs qui menacent le bassin de la rivière Lukaya en République Démocratique du Congo. Situé en périphérie de Kinshasa, le bassin est une source importante d'approvisionnement en eau pour la capitale. Ce projet pilote démontrera comment la réduction de risque de catastrophes à base d'écosystèmes (RRC-éco) peut être intégrée à la planification du développement de bassins-versants. Les usagers de la rivière en amont et en aval sont réunis pour aborder ensemble les problèmes de risque de catastrophes et de planification du développement, d'une manière plus intégrée. La cartographie participative en trois dimensions (MP3D) a été utilisée dans le processus.

Friday, March 04, 2016

IWD2016 - Celebrating women: A champion for the rights of indigenous people

An encounter with an innovative technique known as participatory three-dimensional modelling was to prove a turning point in the life of a young tribeswoman from rural Chad. She now travels the globe to advocate for the rights of her own and other indigenous communities, and to press for their voice to be heard in negotiations about climate change, on which their futures depend.

Growing up as part of the M'bororo people – traditional semi-nomadic and nomadic herders living in Chad and neighbouring countries – nothing could have prepared Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim for the turn her life would take once she was introduced to participatory mapping. At the time, she was a young woman, working to gain recognition of her people's rights, and especially for access to the natural resources that are critical to their livelihoods.

Participatory three-dimensional modelling (P3DM), or participatory mapping, brings together traditional knowledge from local communities about their landscapes and ecosystems with data on physical features, such as land elevation and sea depth. The result is a scaled and geo-referenced three-dimensional (3D) model, which can be a powerful tool for knowledge building and communication, as well as for gaining recognition of local communities' rights to be involved in decision-making that affects their natural resources.

Hindou's introduction to P3DM came through the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC), a network of 150 indigenous peoples' organisations in 20 African countries. IPACC had been introduced to participatory mapping by CTA's P3DM expert, Giacomo Rambaldi, and supported in its use as a tool for gathering evidence for indigenous peoples' arguments in national and international negotiations.

A bitter conflict

Encouraged to learn about the practice through a P3DM exercise in Gabon, Hindou spent two weeks living with local pygmies and helping them to build a participatory 3D map of their jungle landscape. The pygmies had lost some of their hunting and fishing rights when a national park was created, and the mapping exercise succeeded in its goal of convincing the government that these indigenous people had a right to be consulted about decisions affecting their homeland.

Hindou was hooked.

"It was a long way away from my own community and very different, but I found the exercise exciting and interesting," said Hindou, who is Director of the Association des Femmes Peules Autochtones du Tchad (AFPAT) and IPACC's Executive Committee representative for the Congo Basin region. "It was the first time I had seen all the intergenerational people mobilised – women, youths, men and elders. I realised that if we did this in my own community, it could help resolve a great many issues."

That chance came in 2012, when, with CTA support, a mapping exercise involving Hindou's own M'bororo people was organised in the southern district of Baïbokoum, the scene of conflicts between nomadic herders and sedentary farmers. Increasing scarcity of natural resources, especially water reserves, was being exacerbated by climate change and population growth, and the bitter contention between the two groups was threatening to spiral out of control.

Hindou was closely involved in the P3DM event, organising the workshop that preceded it, which brought together herders, scientists, UNESCO and World Meteorological Organization representatives as well as government officials for the first time. Once again, participatory mapping proved to be a winning approach. The model-making process enabled all players to have an overview of the contested area, highlighting where the farmers had barred the routes used by herders to take their cattle to water and identifying a range of solutions that would be acceptable to all.

The mapping exercise showed that indigenous peoples could play an effective role in decision-making, from which they had always been excluded in the past. And it gave a new sense of self-confidence to all members of the community, especially women.

"We took the opportunity to increase the capacity of women to express themselves, showing men that the women had a voice and that their opinions were sometimes more valuable than those of men – and the men accepted this," said Hindou. "As a result, women had a greater say in community affairs."

Powerful traditional knowledge

At a personal level, the mapping exercise also proved an eye opener for Hindou herself.

"The impact on me was huge. This was my community, so I knew all the traditional knowledge, but it helped me to understand things that didn't belong to my own generation," she recalls. "It changed my life forever."

Hindou now uses P3DM in all her work, to illustrate the importance of conserving traditional knowledge, how to marry it with scientific knowledge and using both to combat climate change and protect the environment.

Although her roots are still firmly anchored in her community, Hindou has become used to travelling the world to make presentations and put the indigenous people's case to high-ranking officials in climate-change negotiations. For the past 10 years, she has been a regular participant at meetings of the UN Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. She is Co-Chair of the International Indigenous Peoples' Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC), which represents the interests of indigenous peoples throughout the world and presents these at COP negotiations.

"Climate change is a massive problem for indigenous people because we depend on the environment. For any indigenous people, from any corner of the world, livelihoods are linked to natural resources, for our food and medicine, for everything, so if there are floods or droughts the impact is greater for us," she said. "Of course, it is highly unusual for someone of my background to be travelling the world and speaking at conferences and negotiating. But for me, it is important to change the life of my community. I know my people are proud of what I am doing and I can never give up my work. I want to help my community to adapt to climate change, and you cannot talk about climate change without talking about the rights of indigenous people."

Reposted from Spore with permission.