Publication Date

"Knowledge built up over time and passed on from generation to generation represents a valuable asset for rural communities when it comes to their land and aquatic resources. Being able to collate rich spatially-defined/geo-referenced local knowledge and represent it in the form of 3-dimensional maps offers unique opportunities for local communities to plan effectively, communicate with decision-makers and make informed decisions on how to sustainably manage their resources.” Michael Hailu, CTA Director

Produced by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), this report documents some of the success stories that have emerged as a result of CTA’s initiatives in participatory geographic information systems (PGIS) in recent years. As explained in the report, PGIS combine a range of geo-spatial information management tools and methods such as sketch maps, participatory 3D models (P3DM), aerial photographs, satellite images, global positioning systems (GPS), and geographic information systems (GIS). CTA has been using and promoting PGIS across African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to ensure that the communities they are working with have a voice in the development of policies affecting agricultural development and the sustainable management of natural resources. Their experience has shown that P3DM is proving particularly effective in helping disadvantaged groups to generate, manage, analyse, and communicate spatial information. For this reason, this publication seeks to share some of the success stories around the use of P3DM (as one component of PGIS) with a focus on three key areas: 1) creating a sense of community ownership; 2) giving a voice to local communities and fostering the emergence of local knowledge; and 3) building valuable mapping capacity in the region. The document highlights each of these areas of success using case studies/stories from across the region, with each case study describing the process and impact of the mapping intervention.

As explained in the document, “[P]articipatory 3-dimensional modelling (P3DM) is a community-based mapping practice that is proving a powerful communication tool in a range of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, helping people in rural areas to record tacit knowledge and bridging language, education and cultural barriers in the process. Developed in the early 1990s in Southeast Asia, the technique integrates local spatial knowledge with data on land elevation and sea depth, producing stand-alone, scaled and geo-referenced relief models and derived maps that can be used for community advocacy and to visualise complex spatially-defined issues...Essentially based on local spatial knowledge, a participatory 3D model portrays land use and cover – together with other features – with the use of pushpins (points), yarns (lines) and paints (polygons). The knowledge is generally supplied by elders in the community, while map-making is carried out by younger members. Once completed, the physical model remains with the community. Once free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) has been obtained, data is extracted, imported into a GIS and strategically shared by the knowledge holders or their trusted intermediaries.” P3DM processes have been most successfully used to prepare management plans addressing land and resource use, watersheds, protected areas, ancestral domains, and disaster-prone areas.

To highlight how P3DM has promoted local ownership of an initiative and led to the development of community-driven natural resource management plans, the paper looks at case studies from Ethiopia, Fiji, and Madagascar. As explained in the report, “the process has generated a perception that those who contributed their knowledge to them own such plans. The result has been intellectual appropriation and a greater commitment to implement the plans.” For example, in Fiji, the P3DM exercise proved to be a powerful catalyst in developing improved natural resource management. As a result of the mapping, farmers and fishers on the island of Ovalau adopted more sustainable land use and fisheries practices, with significant increases in production as a result. In Ethiopia, a rural community was spurred to take action when a participatory mapping exercise confronted them with the true extent of their ecosystem degradation. This resulted in the the whole community being involved in rehabilitating the landscape.

The second key areas where P3DM has been successful is in giving people the tools to share their knowledge - with each other and with other stakeholders. As explained in the document, “The P3DM process fosters the emergence of local knowledge about the agro-ecosystems that people depend on for their livelihoods and daily trade. In the presence of elders – custodians of traditional knowledge – and youth, it facilitates inter-generational knowledge exchange and raises awareness across different age groups about changes over time. The experience also helps to stimulate community cohesion, encouraging people to share information and concerns and often reinforces community self-actualisation through the revival of local culture and knowledge. In many instances, participants report that the P3DM process enables them to gain a more holistic understanding of their social, cultural and biophysical environments and they realise the importance of working together towards a common goal.” Cases from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname show how this has helped communities to talk with one voice, how they have used the 3D models as part of a communications strategy to foster legal and policy reform at national level, and how it has empowered local stakeholders to interact with national and international institutions to advocate for change. For example, the case from the DRC shows how the P3DM initiative helped to move negotiations forward in a decades-long dispute over the decision to expel the indigenous Bambuti-Batwa community from their ancestral forests in the newly formed Kahuzi Biega National Park (PKNB). In opening up dialogue between the Batwa people, the political and administrative authorities, and the management of the PKNB, the 3D model served as an advocacy tool, as support for convincing the various actors and promoting the Batwa culture. In addition, a P3DM exercise on Union Island, St. Vincent, and a campaign built around the model was instrumental in reviving a stalled plan to rehabilitate a badly degraded lagoon area. The long campaign finally won government approval after a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and the local community saw the need for sustainable development and pushed for the lagoon’s restoration. The model improved people’s understanding of the value of the different ecosystems on the island and helped to communicate concerns and issues on environmental management.

Engaging in P3DM has also contributed to building the skills, credibility, and reputation of both individuals and institutions involved in running and facilitating P3DM initiatives. As explained in the report, “[S]kills acquired for its facilitation have proved to be sought after assets for those who develop them. And the 3D models, complemented by distinctive participatory data sets and supported by a well-documented process, have proved to be highly effective in attracting interest from government authorities and development agencies, generating consensus and funding in the process.” Examples cited include one from from Papua New Guinea, where a development practitioner who received training in 2005 has seen his conservation NGO become a regional hub of excellence for the practice. He has launched a Training of Trainers approach which is helping to spread P3DM throughout the Pacific. Another case shows that mapping exercises conducted with African indigenous peoples (IP) have given visibility to their highly sophisticated knowledge systems related to landscapes and ecosystems. This has boosted the credibility of these often marginalised people and strengthened their self-confidence and position in negotiations.


CTA website on November 2 2016.