Using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Participatory Mapping of Community Forest

Him Lal Shrestha


Community forestry is a successful development programme of His Majesty's Government (HMG), in the sector of forest management in Nepal. The process of community forestry comprises the assessment of forest resources and drawing-up of a plan of action for the management of forests. Forest boundary surveying is a mandatory activity in the formal handing over of the forest to the people or Forest User groups (FUG) as they are known in practice. The spatial issues in mapping are more related to the boundary of the forest, location of the forest itself, the geographic characteristics of the forest i.e. slope, aspect, altitude and area covered by particular forest resources i.e. the forest type, Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) and information that could be useful in preparing a better management and implementation plan of the forest. The use of Participatory Geographic Information Systems (PGIS) in the field of community forest management combines the collection of quantitative and qualitative information in a way that is beneficial for the FUG (Jordan, 2000) i.e. mapping the boundary of the forest, block division of the forest area and preparing a multiple resource map. The quantitative spatial components can be collected and managed for sustainable forest management i.e. information on the length of forest boundary, resource distribution, stocking and incidence patterns. Without peoples' participation in the application of GIS and GPS in mapping the forest, the accuracy cannot always be assured on the one hand, while on the other, the information cannot be properly utilized as the ultimate users of the community forest maps are the local communities themselves. Prior to handing over of the forest areas to the FUGs, transect walks are carried-out in the relevant areas and features of interest are mapped using GPSs. The data is analysed in a GIS environment and maps i.e. Forest Boundaries, delineating NTFP species as well as the location of poor Households are produced. Assessment of products by plots of the relevant species, are also carried-out. Thus the participatory GIS, incorporates both indigenous knowledge on spatial aspects of community forest management, as well as social, land cover, and cultural features.