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39
“Mapping processes can be used to help
secure access to land and natural
resources, to facilitate the management of
these resources and to support community
advocacy on land-related issues. In other
words, mapping is increasingly playing a
role in the empowerment of people and
communities.”
Di Gessa, 2008
This review is intended to provide a broad
background in the use of participatory
mapping processes and the range of tools
available to practitioners. It draws on a
number of examples from around the world,
with special attention given to projects
supported by IFAD and the ILC. The review is
not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to
give the reader a greater appreciation of how
participatory mapping has evolved from a
relatively simplistic PRA tool into a
community of practice spanning a range of
sophisticated technologies and processes.
With the emergence of new cartographic tools
and new media for distributing spatial
information, the participatory mapping
community has evolved to incorporate and
use these technologies to suit the agenda of
the communities with whom they work. This
development has recently given rise to the
increasingly common use of GIS and Internet
technologies. These tools present new
challenges when used in both development
and community contexts.
This review is designed to pave the way for
a second document, the IFAD Adaptive
Approach to Participatory Mapping, that
describes a step-by-step process for designing,
preparing, implementing and evaluating
participatory mapping initiatives within IFAD
projects. The approach draws on the
fundamental principles of participatory
mapping described in this document and
examines in greater depth the complexities of
implementing these principles.
4
In addition,
it clearly articulates the practicalities of
implementing participatory mapping
initiatives while strengthening institutional
mechanisms for long-term sustainability of
community initiatives.
5.  Conclusions 
4
These are free, prior and informed consent (FPIC),
commitment to community control, accommodation of
community needs, support for community intellectual
property, commitment to an inclusive process, and long-term
commitment to mapping initiatives.
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40
Description
Uses/Users
Strengths
Weaknesses
Resources
A basic mapping method
that involves community
members drawing maps on
the ground from memory
using any available 
materials, such as plants,
rocks or household tools.
The final product is kept for
a short time only
Commonly used 
in RRA-, PRA- 
and PLA-related initiatives
Good for beginning 
to frame principal 
land-based decision-
making issues
Helpful in
acquainting
community members
with maps. Helps 
build confidence
Users:
Application for broad
range of users – e.g.
community
members,
researchers, 
development 
intermediaries and
NGOs
This activity is often
outsider motivated or
initiated
Useful to engage
non-expert users
Low-cost and not
technology 
dependent
Tangible short-term
outcomes
Most participants
can relate to product
Easily facilitated
Tactile – can walk
around and interact
with the product
Product not 
replicable (can’t copy
or produce for
dissemination) 
Impermanent and
fragile (also weather
dependent!)
Not produced to
scale; not accurate
or precise
The medium used
(i.e. the ground)
might affect buy-in
and product
consequently might
lack credibility as a
formal decision-
making document
Informants use raw
materials like soil,
pebbles, sticks and
leaves
Open space
Optional coloured
sand
Large sheets of paper
to draw finished map
Cameras can also be
useful to photograph
the finished product
Annex A
Matrix of  participatory
mapping  tools
Ground mapping
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Description
Uses/Users
Strengths
Weaknesses
Resources
Sketch maps are freehand
drawings. They are drawn
on large pieces of paper
and from memory. They
represent the land from 
a bird’s eye view. They
involve drawing key
community-identified
features. They do not rely
on exact measurements,
and do not use a 
consistent scale or 
geo-referencing. They do
show the relational size 
and position of features
Commonly associated 
with RRA-, PRA- and PLA-
related initiatives
Good to stimulate
and inform internal
community
discussions related
to broad-level
landuse patterns,
resource distribution,
areas of conflict,
problems 
and planning
Very useful in getting
a broad picture of
issues and events
covering large areas
Can be used to help
plan subsequent
mapping activities
Users:
Application for broad
range of users –
e.g. community
members,
researchers,
development
intermediaries and
NGOs
Useful to engage
non-expert users
with little training
Low-cost and 
not technology
dependent
Tangible short-term
outcomes
Easily facilitated
More detailed and
permanent than
ground maps
Easily adopted 
and replicated at
community level
Outputs are not geo-
referenced and can
only be transposed
onto a scale map
with much difficulty
Not useful when
locational accuracy
is important – when
one needs to
determine the size of
an area or make
other quantitative
measurements
Lack of accuracy
undermines
credibility with
government officials
Large-sized sheets
of paper, pencils and
coloured pens
This activity is
particularly sensitive
to the composition of
the participating
group (especially in
relation to gender,
age and status
factors)
Sketch mapping
41
Annex A
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42
Description
Uses/Users
Strengths
Weaknesses
Resources
A spatial cross-section of a
community, depicting
geographic features (e.g.
infrastructure, local
markets, schools) as well
as land use types and
vegetation zones observed
along an imaginary line.
Activities involve
questioning community
members and walking and
mapping transects
A transect aims to cover as
many of the ecological,
production and social
groups along the defined
route as possible
Good to stimulate
and inform internal
community
discussions related
to broad-level
landuse patterns,
resource distribution,
conflicts, problems
and planning
Helps analyse
linkages, transitions,
patterns and
interrelationships of
land use and
different ecological
zones along the
transect
To have broad
application and
benefit, needs to be
combined with 
2-D maps
Users:
Researchers,
development
intermediaries,
villagers, community
members and
particularly farmers
Useful to engage
non-expert users
with little training
Low-cost and not
technology
dependent
Community
members can relate
to product
Tangible short-term
outcomes
Easily facilitated and
replicated
Relates well to
participants’
everyday movements
and activities
(because it tracks
their travels at
ground level – not
aerially as with
sketch maps)
Gives good
perspective for low
to high elevation
cross-sections
Outputs are not geo-
referenced and can
only be transposed
onto a scale map
when combined with
GPS data
Not useful when
locational accuracy
is important – when
one needs to
determine the size of
an area or make
other quantitative
measurements
Lack of accuracy
undermines
credibility with
government officials
Provides a limited
perspective of the
landscape
Paper and coloured
pencils 
Depending on size of
area to be covered
and terrain, a
transect can be
done on foot, animal,
cart or motor vehicle
Transect mapping
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Description
Uses/Users
Strengths
Weaknesses
Resources
Scale maps present
accurate georeferenced
data. A scale map means
that a distance measured
anywhere on the map
always represents
(depending on the scale)
the equivalent distance on
the ground – e.g. 1cm on
the map equals 1km on the
ground. Scale maps are
often referred to as ‘base
maps’ by practitioners
This method is commonly
used where accurate and
affordable scale maps are
available (especially in
Canada) and people are
familiar with them. Local
knowledge is gathered in
conversation around a map
and is then drawn directly
upon the map (or else onto
mylar sheets placed on top
of the map). The position of
features is determined by
looking at their position
relative to natural
landmarks (e.g. rivers,
mountains, lakes)
Good format to
communicate
community 
information to 
decision-makers
because it uses
formal cartographic
protocols (e.g.
coordinate systems,
projections)
Information on 
the map can be
easily verified on 
the ground
Information can be
incorporated into
other mapping tools
(including GIS)
GPS data can be
easily transposed
onto scale maps
After initial
orientation with the
map, it provides an
understandable 
and accurate
representation of 
an area
If maps are available
and relatively cheap,
this tool is fast 
compared to other
participatory
mapping techniques
(such as creating 
a scale map by
surveyors)
Low-cost and 
not technology 
dependent
Tangible short-term
outcomes
Easily facilitated
Relatively accurate
portrayal of 
local knowledge
Can be used 
to determine 
quantitative
information (such 
as distance areas
and direction)
In many countries
(especially
developing
countries), access to
accurate scale maps
is heavily regulated
and difficult
Lack of accuracy
Training is required
to understand 
formal cartographic
protocols (e.g. 
scale, orientation,
coordinate systems,
projections) for 
their use
More complex to
grasp than sketch,
transect and ground
mapping
Scale maps (usually
the most up-to-date
maps are not
required – the key
information needed
on the maps is the
location of natural
features, such as
rivers, ridges)
Large-sized sheets
of mylar (transparent
plastic sheets),
pencils and/or
coloured pens
Scale mapping – drawing information on existing scale maps
43
Annex A
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44
Description
Uses/Users
Strengths
Weaknesses
Resources
Scale maps represent a
more sophisticated
participatory mapping
method aimed at
presenting accurate
georeferenced data. A
scale map means that a
distance measured
anywhere on the map
always represents
(depending on the scale)
the equivalent distance on
the ground – e.g. 1cm on
the map equals 1km on the
ground. Scale maps are
often referred to as ‘base
maps’ by practitioners
Where scale maps are not
available but are required
by the purpose of the
participatory mapping
initiative, they can be made
from scratch using a range
of equipment including
compass and GPS tools.
The finished map can then
be used to incorporate 
and communicate local
spatial knowledge
It should be noted that this
is often a last resort
measure because the time
and energy required to
create a scale map from
scratch are considerable
Good format to
communicate
community
information to
decision-makers
because it uses
formal cartographic
protocols (e.g. 
scale, orientation,
coordinate systems)
Information on 
the map can be
easily verified on 
the ground
Information can be
incorporated into
other mapping tools
(including GIS)
GPS data can be
easily transposed
onto scale maps
On completion, the
maps have a
relatively accurate
portrayal of
community lands
that otherwise would
not be available
Can be used to
determine
quantitative
information (such 
as distance, areas
and direction)
Substantial
requirements for
equipment as well as
training in its use
They are prone 
to error
Requires long-term
commitment (time
consuming and 
hard work)
More complex to
grasp than using
existing scale maps
or making sketch,
transect and 
ground maps
Compass, distance
measuring devices
such as a GPS
Scale mapping – making scale maps using survey techniques
Description
Uses/Users
Strengths
Weaknesses
Resources
P3DM are stand-alone
scale relief models created
from the template of a
topographic map. Pieces of
cardboard are cut in the
shape of the contour lines
and pasted on top of each
other. The model is then
finished with wire, plaster
and paint
Geographic features are
depicted on the model
using pushpins (for points),
coloured string (for lines)
and paint (for areas). On
completion, a scaled and
georeferenced grid can be
applied to allow the data to
be transposed back onto a
scale map or else imported
into a GIS
Good to stimulate
and inform internal
community
discussions related
to broadlevel landuse
patterns, resource
distribution, 
conflicts, problems 
and planning
Finished model 
can become an
installation depicting
community spatial
knowledge and
presented in a
museum or
community centre –
it can become 
a symbol of
community pride
Data depicted on the
model can be
extracted, digitized
and plotted
Initial creation of the
community model is
in itself a community
activity with positive
community-building
outcomes (also 
a good tool to 
learn about map
topography)
Reusable for multiple
planning exercises
Low-cost and not
technology
dependent
Effective in
portraying relatively
extensive and
remote areas 
Can accommodate
overlapping layers of
information
(functions like a
rudimentary GIS)
The 3-D aspect of
the model is intuitive
and understandable;
this means all
community members
can contribute either
information or labour 
The information on
the model can be
easily transposed
and replicated in 
a GIS
In many countries
(especially developing
countries), access to
accurate topographic
maps is regulated
and difficult
Labour-intensive 
and relatively time
consuming when
compared to using
existing scale maps
Storage and
transport of the
model can be
difficult. Makes
immediate
communication of
community
information to
decision-makers
difficult. The
information must 
be transferred to
another medium
(e.g. paper maps,
photos or GIS) 
to make it 
more portable
Topographic map
Pushpins, coloured
string, paint, plaster
and chicken wire
Can also be useful 
to photograph the
finished product
Participatory 3-D modelling (P3DM)
45
Annex A
46
Description
Uses/Users
Strengths
Weaknesses
Resources
Global Positioning System
(GPS) is a satellite-based
positioning system. A GPS
receiver is carried to a
position in the field and
used to capture an exact
location on the earth 
using a known coordinate
system such as latitude
and longitude. Data are
stored in digital format
Recently these technologies
have become far more
accurate, accessible,
cheap and easy to use. 
As a result, there is 
a proliferation of their 
use in participatory
mapping initiatives
Used to capture and
store geographic
coordinates related
to local features 
(e.g. boundaries or
point locations) and
then locate these
points on accurate
scale maps 
Increasingly used by
communities in
surveying large areas
quickly and making
accurate scale maps
which are recognized
by official agencies
Helps add accurate
locational information
of geographic
features onto scale
maps, geo-
referenced P3DMs
(and other less
technology-rich
community mapping
methods), as well 
as aerial and 
remote-sensed
images and GIS
Provides accurate
(within 15 metres
accuracy)
geographic data
After initial training,
receivers are
relatively easy 
to operate
Increasingly
affordable
Relatively lower
technology
requirements than
other computer-
based mapping
techniques and
therefore lower cost
Still relatively
expensive for many
communities
Training is required
to understand the
equipment as well as
formal cartographic
protocols (e.g. 
scale, orientation,
coordinate systems,
projections) for 
its use
Equipment requires
batteries (which is an
additional expense)
GPS receivers can
be monopolized 
by men
Getting direct line 
of site to satellites
sometimes 
hard in heavily
forested areas
GPS receiver
Scale maps on
which to plot the
GPS points
Logbook is useful to
record and back-up
key way points
Waterproof box for
storing the GPS
receiver, a set of
spare batteries and 
a compass 
GPS mapping
Description
Uses/Users
Strengths
Weaknesses
Resources
Aerial photography and
remote sensing involves
gathering pictures (often
referred to as images if they
are in digital form) from
about the earth’s surface
using cameras on airplanes
and satellite sensors 
from space
These images can be
georeferenced and turned
into air photo/satellite maps
and used in much the
same way as scale maps
(discussed above).
Distortion in the image is
corrected and the height
data (i.e. topography) can
be interpolated. Scale,
orientation, coordinate
system and contour lines
are shown, making air
photo maps excellent base
maps for participatory
mapping initiatives
Mylar transparencies can
be overlaid on the
photomap to delineate land
use and other significant
features. Information on the
transparencies can be
scanned or digitized and
georeferenced later
Recently these data
(particularly slightly
outdated satellite images)
have become more
accessible and cheaper
(and in some cases free).
As a result, there is a
proliferation of their 
use in participatory
mapping initiatives
Good format to
communicate
community
information to
decision-makers
because it uses
formal cartographic
protocols (e.g.
coordinate systems,
projections)
Information on 
the map can be
easily verified on 
the ground
GPS data can be
easily transposed
onto images
If images of the
same area have
been taken at
different points in
time, they can
provide an excellent
way of understanding
the extent of land
use change over
time. These
comparisons can be
an excellent stimulus
for community
discussion and
strategizing
Effective in mapping
relatively large and
difficult to access
areas. Can provide
broad overview of
community land use
– watershed level 
Increasingly easy
and cheap to access
and download from
the Web
Can be engaging,
offering community
members views and
perspective of their
area that they may
never have
experienced before.
Landmarks may
even be recognizable
Still can be
expensive and
images are not
readily available. 
May be difficult to
obtain permission 
for access in some
countries (i.e. 
may be under
military control)
No legend – have to
interpret objects.
Certain images are
sometimes difficult to
read and interpret
Does not always
clearly depict the
features important 
to community
members (e.g.
certain forest types
or individual trees) 
Sources of data
could be difficult for
some community
members to relate to
(e.g. orbiting
satellites far outside
earth’s atmosphere)
Aerial photos and
remote sensed
images
Large sized mylar
transparencies,
tracing paper,
pencils, coloured
pens and tape
Using aerial and remote sensing images
47
Annex A
48
Description
Uses/Users
Strengths
Weaknesses
Resources
Interactive, computer-
based maps that link digital
video, photos and written
text with maps. They can
be used to communicate
complex, qualitative local
knowledge related to the
landscape 
The digital hyperlinked map
of the community’s
traditional lands consists 
of points, lines and
polygons that can be
clicked on to link the viewer
to related multimedia 
and textual information
To support local
communities in
expressing,
documenting and
communicating their
traditional and
contemporary land-
related knowledge
using a medium that
is closer to the
traditional oral
systems of
knowledge transfer
Integrates local
spatial and
nonspatial data to
support discussion
and decision -
making processes
For communicating
land-related
traditional knowledge
with outsiders and
within the community,
particularly between
generations in an
accessible and
engaging format
(especially video) 
Very engaging
format, excellent
system for
communicating 
local knowledge
Combined with
tangible computer-
based skill transfer to
community members
Potential to package
and sell production
material once trained
Easy for end-user 
to access and 
learn about 
local knowledge 
Relatively easy to
develop and deploy
than more complex
GIS initiatives
Expensive for 
many communities
(important to not
forget long-term
operating costs 
in addition to start-
up outlay)
Training required to
understand the
equipment as well as
formal cartographic
protocols
Long-term
commitment (i.e.
time-consuming)
More complex to
grasp than using
existing scale maps
or making sketch,
transect and 
ground maps
Video production,
photographic editing
and file management
training required
There is a danger
that practitioners
focus too much on
the technology to the
detriment of the
participatory process
In many remote
communities, access
to the electricity
required to run 
the equipment 
is intermittent 
or altogether
unavailable
Video and camera
equipment 
Digital image of map
Computers and
software
Multimedia mapping
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested