What is community mapping?

Community mapping is a tool that allows communities to visualize and map their land, natural resources and community issues (infrastructure, safety, health & agriculture concerns) in a participatory way. Using spatial tools in a participatory manner reinforces bottom-up development and collective decision making. In addition the mapping and monitoring process can be linked to problem solving and feedback mechanisms.

Why is it important?

Community mapping has a number of applications that are important for empowering communities to achieve the millennium development goals. Applications and benefits include education & awareness, cultural heritage preservation, increasing local communications capacity, collaborative planning, community-based disaster risk reduction, collaborative resource management, participatory monitoring and evaluation and conflict resolution.

Awareness Raising and Education: enhance communities interest in conserving and restoring natural resources, ensure disease outbreaks are identified and controlled.

Cultural Heritage Preservation: detailed knowledge and representation of cultural heritage strengthens preservation.

Increasing Local Communications Capacity: communities play an active role in the creation of tangible information which eases communication, helping to bridge language barriers. Models and maps can be used as part of a larger communication strategy to foster legal and policy reform at the national level.

Collaborative Planning: Broadens perspectives on interlocked ecosystems and pressure points, helping to deal with issues and conflicts associated with the territory and resource use. Mapping land use can help with agricultural planning.

Community-based Disaster Risk Reduction: Empower local communities to better assess their natural hazard proclivities and thereby move toward solutions for reducing risk.

Collaborative Protected Area Management: Involve communities in developing management, zoning and resource use plans, geo-referencing their priorities, aspirations, concerns and needs and integrating their knowledge into natural resource intervention strategies.

Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation: Ensure community models are up-dated at given intervals by digitizing data, plotting it in GIS thematic maps and finally returning it to the community for assessing change, and identifying its causes and effects.

Conflict Resolution: Participatory approaches at the local level using mapping can help in settling of boundary disputes through the visualization of the landscape and associated land uses and settlement pattern.

What are the existing tools and applications?

A simple geographic web framework that seeks to make it as easy as possible to build GIS web applications and harness the power of spatially enabled data. Communities with basic GIS functionality can add and manipulate data layers (including shape files and points over satellite imagery available from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft). Potential applications include:
- Community reporting of the locations of incidents like sickness, crime or infrastructure problems as they occur
- Specifically, mapping incidents of diarrhoea could help alert the community of a cholera outbreak and potentially identify the water source causing the problem.
- Community planning including the management of farm lands.

Ushahidi was originally conceived as a tool for people who witnessed acts of violence in Kenya in the post-election crisis of December 2007. It enabled citizen journalism to inform citizens after a ban was placed on live broadcasting - citizens could report incidents from their mobile phones and the information was transferred to an online data based where it could be visualized on a map. Ushahidi is open source and free, it can be downloaded and customized and applied anywhere in the world. Since the initial application, it has been used to:
- Spread information during the political crisis in Madagascar

- Fill the communication gap in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

- Map Kibera, Africa’s largest slum

- Map availability of HIV, AIDs and TB Services in Kenya

Google Earth Outreach
Google Earth Outreach enables non-profits and public benefit organizations to visualize their cause and tell their story in Google Earth & Maps by providing the knowledge and resources they need. Organizations have used it to visualize Kampala’s expanding urban footprint , it has had a 5.6 percent annual growth rate since the 1960s and now has 1.2 million residents.

CyberTracker is a free, open source software that can be installed on any portable device equipped with GPS to collect georeferenced data with detailed digital annotations and store large quantities of geocoded observations with precisions and detail. By combining indigenous knowledge with easy-to-use, state-of-the-art computer and satellite technology, it allows local communities to participate in key areas of biodiversity management and conservation. See a video .

Additional case studies:

Community-based Rainforest Mapping

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK)
RFUK enabled community mappers in the Lopori river area of Equateur Province to cover over 1000 square kilometres and map culturally significant sites using geographical positioning and information systems (GPS and GIS). A copy of the map produced was provided to national authorities for zoning purposes, in the process the community themselves learned about the diverse ways the forest is used by different groups. The organization notes that revealing such information may lead to greater exploitation and cautions that the technique should be applied carefully.

Community-based Resource Management

Begasheka Watershed, Tigray, Ethiopia – Aid Ethiopia Operational Research and Capacity Building for Food Security and Sustainable Livelihoods Project
PGIS was used at the grass roots level to collect data on land use changes. Involving the local community in the process helped in understanding the social and ecological drivers of change and in the design and implementation of rehabilitation measures. Additional benefits included broad-based community participation, improved communication within the community, development of local skills and capacity and local participation in policy decision making.

Southwestern Uganda – Geographical Information for Sustainable Development
Integrated natural resource intervention strategies and community resource mapping (supported by acquired geospatial data were used in conjunction to realize sustainable development action planning. The researchers also noted benefits of community resource mapping in property rights and geospatial technology transfer.

Ethiopia – Pastoralists use maps and satellite images to depict land use
A team of researchers looked into overcoming the limitations of traditional community maps by involving communities in the interpretation of high resolution satellite images. The combination of techniques allowed them to develop an accurate picture of natural resources and land use among pastoralists in southern Ethiopia. The results of the project “will be used by local and central governments to support planning initiatives, to manage vulnerable water sources and, with a better understanding of the communities’ needs and land use patterns, to protect the livelihoods of pastoralists.”

What would community mapping in the Millennium Villages look like?

Although the various Millennium Villages have different conditions, they are all common in that they face serious environmental, epidemiological, geographical and infrastructure challenges. At the same time the MVP is demonstrating that the MDGs can be achieved through community-led development efforts with appropriate financing and support. A CBIS with integrated community mapping exercises can enhance the MVP sectoral initiatives in environment, water, agriculture and health.

For resource management concerns, the Millennium Villages could utilize a Participatory Geographic Information Systems process to involve community leaders in the visualization process. Not only would the community end up with a clear picture of the current situation, pressure points and risk factors; but a changing patterns component could be built in to inform climate scientists, agronomists and hydrologists understand the evolving nature of the resources and help them best focus their interventions. In addition such processes could also inform regional and national governments in their policy making plans. The CBIS could enhance the process by posting findings for feedback and disseminating findings via community radio and community message boards.

In the area of agriculture, a mapping component could be built into an SMS application to enable farmers to report incidents of crop failure and pests. By mapping the data, the MVP could take steps to prevent the spread of such problems. The application possibilities are similar for health. Community members would report incidence of disease outbreak via sms with gps enabled. Once again mapping the data could lead to better intervention strategies.

See this page for specific tools to implement mapping.

Additional Reading:

Behavior Change Comm. | Edutainment | E-governance | Health Info. Management | Mapping | Participatory Appraisal & Planning | Radio
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