Participatory Mapping

Integrating local knowledge for shared understanding of landscapes

Participatory mapping plays an essential role in JGI conservation initiatives, recording local perspectives and knowledge of landscapes and land uses and values. Through this process the complex interrelations between people and the places they live are brought to life in a view that incorporates socio-economic perspectives along with ecological ones. The common understanding that results allows communities to plan more effectively and take precious natural resources and habitats into consideration.

Participatory mapping provides the common language and mechanisms that integrate traditional and scientific knowledge into a single communal view. In communities where JGI works, local people may often have limited experience reading maps but are easily able to participate thanks to the visual interpretation made possible by detailed satellite imagery. Villagers recognize geographic features on 1-m satellite imagery prints locating familiar locations on the ground such as a school or their houses.    Travelling “mentally” though the imagery to locate other land features, they are able to map small streams, forest patches, footpaths and bridges; oil palm, banana and cassava fields; and worship places such as churches, mosques and even traditional belief places represented by sacred trees, stones and waterfalls.

Recognizing the importance of local, indigenous knowledge in the development and implementation of conservation and development projects, JGI has made participation with local villages a focal point of its efforts. Participatory mapping is the starting point for many projects, providing the foundation of shared knowledge from which to build.

This work is integral to the following JGI programs in Africa:

Learn more about JGI’s participatory mapping:

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