Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) recently launched Mapping for Rights, a web-based tool developed to improve forest governance in the Congo Basin.
What is it?
Mapping for Rights provides geographical information on the presence of indigenous peoples and other forest communities in the Congo Basin; it maps their rights and their use of forests. It also houses information on other forest uses such as logging and palm oil concessions, REDD+* projects, mining and gas permits, infrastructure projects and protected areas. It is therefore an invaluable resource for those making decisions about forest conservation and use – be they businesses, members of government or NGOs, or affected communities.
How does it work?
The maps are developed using participatory techniques, involving indigenous peoples and communities who provide information about their local environment, such as the location of sacred sites, important water sources, or the boundaries of ancestral territories. Participants decide how to share the information or whether information is too sensitive for publication. The information is then communicated in ways that make sense to the broadest possible user-base.
Why is it important?
Participatory Mapping is one way of giving remote and marginalised communities a voice in decisions that are otherwise made by governments, without their input. It provides a way for communities visually to present their knowledge and values and can help them to secure their rights to live in, use and manage the forest.
In so doing, Participatory Mapping offers communities the means of protecting forests and their inhabitants against large-scale land grabs for minerals, agribusiness, logging, infrastructure and so-called protected areas. It is now well understood that areas of forest inhabited by indigenous peoples have some of the highest remaining diversity of plant and animal species, reflecting their cultural and social practices and beliefs.
The maps are also useful tools in exposing corruption and poor planning: they reveal overlapping concessions, and help forewarn communities of likely evictions.
RFUK and mapping in the Congo Basin
RFUK and its partners have supported Participatory Mapping in the Congo Basin since 2000. There are now specialist mapping facilities and personnel in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and the Republic of Congo. To date, this work has helped to support around 300 forest communities to produce maps covering over two million hectares.
Watch this video from the Mapping for Rights website for more information.