have a clear structure in place before
initiating or engaging in a participatory
mapping project. It is also necessary to be
flexible and adaptive to be able to adjust to
individual community requirements and
unexpected circumstances as they arise.
Most participatory mapping processes
loosely follow the steps identified in Chapin,
Lamb and Threlkeld’s approach described in
Box 12. These steps are discussed in more
1. Preparing the community for
the mapping activity
Prior to commencing a mapping activity, it is
important to provide the community with
sufficient information about participatory
mapping (e.g. why mapping, what maps
are and how they are made and used), the
range of tools available (i.e. from sketch
maps to sophisticated computer-based
mapping systems), the process required to
create the map (e.g. how much time, effort
and resources are required) and the map’s
potential uses. At this point, it is also
important to consider what map scale the
activity will use. From Giacomo Rambaldi’s
experience, individuals can comfortably work
with maps at scales larger than 1:10,000
(e.g. they can quite precisely locate their
household). At 1:20,000, the connection
between the map and the real world is lost.
This information is best presented in a
community meeting or series of meetings.
The meetings also give community members
a forum to discuss the relevance of the
participatory map-making process to the
issues facing the community. If this project
is being initiated or facilitated by outsiders,
this initial meeting is also an opportune
moment for the outsiders to introduce
themselves and begin to build a relationship
with community members.
At this stage of the process it is also
important for the facilitator to identify
someof the risks associated with mapping
these lands. These include making valuable
resources potentially visible to people who
might then exploit the resources, creating
unrealistic expectations of what can be
achieved using a map, or including contested
boundaries on maps that might aggravate
groups disputing the location of those
boundaries. It is important that community
members discuss these issues at an early stage
so that the information to be collected and
included on the map can be tailored to avoid
these potentially negative consequences.
Only when community members have
this information will they be able to make
an informed decision about whether they
are prepared to invest the amount of time
and energy required by the participatory
2. Determining the purpose(s)
of making a map
People’s time is precious; it is therefore
important for community members to
determine at the outset the purpose, or
purposes, for creating a map and to have a
strategy about how the map might be used
to address issues faced by the community.
This step is a key component of any
participatory mapping initiative. It will
determine what type of map should be used
and the information that will be presented
on the map.
This step needs to be completed before the
community spends time producing a map
that might not clearly address its needs. The
initial meeting, described in Step 1, is an
ideal opportunity to determine the map’s
purpose(s). Box 13 presents questions a
facilitator might ask to stimulate thought and
discussion about the map’s purpose(s).
At this decision-making stage, it is vital to
involve as many people in the community as
possible. A commitment to broad
community involvement is important in
getting people to think through issues
collectively, share important knowledge and
memories and debate relevant issues. If
community members do not have these
discussions or if pressing issues related to
their land are left unresolved, they can
undermine the legitimacy of the map at a
later stage in the process.
Community buy-in and control depends
on having a broad cross-section of
community members engaged in this
decision-making stage. The larger the
proportion of community members involved,
the better the maps will represent the views
and interests of the entire community. If they
are involved at this early stage it is also more
likely that the community will take
ownership over the map, which will result in
the maps having a greater legitimacy both
within the community and with outsiders.
If the community meeting is large, it is
often best to split into smaller groups.
These groups can be determined by gender,
age and/or socio-economic status so that
everyone is comfortable and able to
contribute to the group in which they are
working (see Box 14 for an example of
how small groups can be used to encourage
During each of these decision-making
steps, it is important for community
members and other stakeholders engaged in
the mapping process to ask who is leading
the process of making decisions about the
map. As Alcorn (2000) notes, it is important
to identify whether decisions are being made
by community members through consensus,
by a local leader or an institution, or by
outside NGOs, researchers, or government.
The intent is to enable community members
to take control of this process (see Box 16).
After a clear set of purposes have been
determined, community members must
decide what information to incorporate into
the map to satisfy the identified purposes of
the mapping initiative. This might include
documenting information about the location
of natural features (e.g. rivers, mountains or
pasture lands), man-made features (e.g.
village sites, roads or agricultural areas),
resources (e.g. different forest types, hunting
areas or grazing sites) and sites of important
cultural or historical value (e.g. boundaries,
grave sites or areas with spiritual
significance). It may also include identifying
or highlighting the location of areas of
potential conflict, land-use change,
development and other contemporary and
pressing land-related issues.
Before information collection begins, the
community must decide on some fundamental
map-related issues. These include
• who from the community will be
involved in making the map;
Questions to determine the purpose for creating a map
Determining the purpose for creating a participatory map will require careful facilitation by either a
trained community member or an outside intermediary. Suggested questions to stimulate discussion
and decision-making include
• Why do we want to make a map?
• Who do we want to show it to?
• What are some of our most important land-related issues?
• What can we use the map for in the short term?
• What can we use the map for in the long term?
• Is there a predefined reason for creating the map?
In most cases, communities will have multiple purposes for creating a map. What is important during
this process is that community members think clearly and articulate why they are creating the maps.
Adapted from Flavelle, 2002.
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Gender and decision-making
Women can find it hard to engage in mapping activities when they are in the presence of men, as
they may feel inhibited. It can be useful to separate the genders and create two separate maps.
This can often provide useful insights into any differences between men’s and women’s priorities or
value attached to particular areas and resources. It is likely the maps will differ in many aspects.
Using this technique will result in a more complete final picture than if only one gender’s map had
been used. It may also encourage more active participation from all participants.
Using remote sensed images, Fiji.
© G. Rambaldi ©/CTA
• symbols that will be included in the
map (these can be modified later in
• the language in which the map and
legend will be presented;
• whether the community intends to map
its entire territory or focus on areas of
3. Collecting information
This step and the next step (i.e. ‘Creating the
map and determining the legend’) are vast
topics and the mechanics and techniques for
collecting information and creating maps will
depend on the chosen process and type of
map that is being made. It is beyond the
scope of this report to discuss the details of
this particular step. But it is important to note
that community members may need
thorough training in surveying, mapping
techniques and specialized mapping
equipment (e.g. GPS and compasses) before
the process of data collection begins. It is also
important to identify individuals (preferably
elders in the community) who can take
responsibility for managing and supporting
the individuals involved with collecting the
information in the field.
Excellent resources for the hands-on
creation of participatory maps include the
‘Mapping Our Land’ handbook by Alix Flavelle
(2002) and ‘Chief Kerry’s Moose: A Guidebook
to Land Use and Occupancy Mapping,
Research Design and Data Collection’ by Terry
Tobias (2000). The IFAD-designed ‘Guide
opérationnel pour l’élaboration et la mise en
oeuvre du plan de développement participatif
avec les communautés agro-pastorales’,
created by the PROESUD project (Box 15)
provides a good mapping overview in French.
For a guide on P3DM there is no better
resource than ‘Participatory 3-Dimensional
Modelling: Guiding Principles and
Applications’ by Giacomo Rambaldi and
Jasmin Callosa-Tarr (2002).
4. Creating the map and determining
As mentioned earlier, this is a potentially
complex step too detailed to cover in this
review. One noteworthy point, however, is
the significance of the community in
Participatory mapping for planning: IFAD’s process in Tunisia
The IFAD-supported Agropastoral Development and Local Initiatives Promotion Programme for the
South-East (PROESUD) used participatory mapping as a basis for initiating a community-based
programming process to link integrated development with a better management of communities’
natural pasture resources. Participatory mapping was found to be a highly useful tool for
understanding community territories and for establishing trust and cooperation between project staff
and community members. It was the starting point of a process that resulted in a shared vision of
the community’s long-term pastoral resources management and in the collective identification of
territory-based project actions.
As a result, the project developed an operational guide describing a successful mapping
methodology developed and implemented in Tunisia. The methodology used by this approach is
called Lecture Socio Foncière des Terroirs. Methodological steps implemented in the PRODESUD
were the following:
• Step I. Preparation and background data gathering;
• Step II. Participatory planning (including the mapping);
• Step III. Participatory programming;
• Step IV. Community organization;
• Step V. Implementation and monitoring and evaluation.
determining the map’s legend. As Giacomo
Rambaldi (2005) notes, “the preparation of
the legend, particularly the selection of
features to display and the way they are
depicted and textually defined, assumes a key
role in determining its final intellectual
ownership, its resulting message, and its
usefulness in the process.”
5. Analysing and evaluating the information
If community members are going to engage in
a participatory mapping initiative, they should
endeavour to do it well. An incomplete or
inaccurate set of maps is unlikely to serve
their best interests. The map needs to
accurately represent the views and knowledge
of the community.
Once the community has created the map,
it is important for facilitators to lead a
discussion to evaluate and verify the overall
quality, completeness, accuracy and relevance
of the mapped data. This step is of particular
• the map was made partially by outsiders;
• the map was made by just one group in
the community (e.g. youth);
• any part of the map-making process
involved the map leaving the community.
At this stage, community members (even if
they were not directly involved in the map-
making process) should have the right to add,
remove or modify the information presented
on the map. Box 17 presents questions that a
facilitator might ask to stimulate community
evaluation of the map.
6. Using and communicating the community’s
Maps are powerful and engaging visual tools
that excel in communicating local knowledge.
They offer a readily understandable
language that can be interpreted by people
from all backgrounds.
Using the community’s maps to
communicate information to decision-makers
and other groups outside the community is
perhaps the most significant component of
the participatory mapping process and also
one of the most complex and difficult to
achieve. If a community has contributed its
time and energy into creating a map, it is
important that they see that their investment
Gradations of participation
As participatory mapping becomes increasingly popular, wide variations are beginning to emerge
in how participation is interpreted and implemented. The commonly held view is that mapping
initiatives need to be flexible and not prescriptive, but there has been considerable debate over
inconsistent approaches to participatory mapping. This friction brings into question the
meaningfulness and authenticity of some initiatives.
Arnstein (1969) developed a diagnostic model to help understand the significant gradations of
participation employed by different agencies and processes. Arnstein refers to her model as an
eight-rung ‘ladder of participation’. Each rung on the ladder corresponds to the extent of citizens’
power in determining the end product.
The bottom two rungs illustrate non-participation, where power holders intend to manipulate
participants. The next rungs of the ladder refer to tokenism, where participation is employed but
community views and ideas are not necessarily acted upon. The top rungs of the ladder involve
citizens taking various degrees of control over decision-making processes, managerial power and
responsibilities. Although the top rung is ambitious, it is considered to be a worthy goal for which
to strive. However, it is also important to note that different levels of community participation are
likely to be appropriate in different circumstances and it may not always be appropriate to consider
citizens’ control as the goal.
Questions to ask when evaluating participatory maps
The map needs to accurately represent the views and knowledge of the community. It is therefore
important to allow community members to evaluate its content and usefulness.
• Should more information have been included on the map?
• Is any information incomplete?
• Is the information displayed on the map accurate?
• What are the most important parts represented on the map?
• What areas need to be improved or addressed?
• If genders were separated, what are the main differences represented
on the maps and why do you think this is?
Participatory mapping by
Bakgalagadi pastoralists and San
hunter-gatherers in Botswana
is respected and that the completed maps are
used to serve the purpose(s) identified during
Step 2 of this process. It is important that the
mapping initiative does not become a process
whereby “community meetings are held, local
input is gathered, reports are produced and
top-down planning is maintained” (Harris &
Over time, new potential uses for the maps
will develop once the community has a
clearer idea of how the maps might be used
and as new circumstances arise to which the
maps might be applied. As identified earlier
in this report, using the maps needs to be
part of a broad and well-defined strategy. The
map by itself is unlikely to solve any land-
related issues, but when the map is
incorporated and used as part of a clear land-
related plan, it will be more likely to help
initiate change. The successful use of the map
is also directly related to the presence of
enabling and disabling legislative and
Once a map has been created, it is often
put into a public arena. As Jo Abbot et al.
(1993) recognize, this turns local knowledge
into public knowledge and conceivably takes
it out of local control. It is important that
communities are aware of this and try to
develop regulations that control how the map
is used and distributed. Community
members need to be clear about who will use
the final map and who authorizes its use. The
ownership issue has been a critical and
recurrent issue in many participatory
mapping initiatives (Alcorn, 2000).
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested