Participatory Mapping for Local Management of Natural Resources in Villages of the Rufiji District (Tanzania)

Stephanie Duvail, Olivier Hamerlynck, Revocatus X. L. Nandi, Pili Mwambeso, Richard Elibariki


Tanzania has introduced legislation that allows communities to locally manage their natural resources. From 1998 to 2003, the Rufiji Environmental Management Project (REMP) promoted such a transfer of authority, from the central government to 4 pilot villages of the Rufiji District in southern Tanzania, mainly for forest resources. These communities developed Village Environmental Management Plans (VEMP). Land-use maps have been produced by multi-institutional teams using Landsat images, aerial photographs, detailed landscape analysis, ground-truthing and incorporation of the results in to a GIS.

Cartography and Environmental Management, carried out in a participatory way, were shown to be effective tools for the improvement of communication and information sharing between local populations, government institutions and researchers. The mapping of land use in the Rufiji District can potentially clarify a fuzzy land-tenure situation, especially in the floodplain. This area, considered as under-utilised by the local authorities, is in fact extensively cultivated by the Warufiji populations who have abandoned the Ujamaa village scheme. The mapping of the 4 areas, by the villagers themselves, equipped with GPS, was instrumental in their official recognition as Village Forest Reserves. Mechanisms still need to be put in place for the resolution of land-use conflicts between villages and for the mediating role that local government should play.

For improved planning, this participatory mapping exercise has to be complemented by a detailed analysis of the economic and spiritual values of the different landscape components, and by a description of the local rules of resource sharing. The drive towards increased local management of natural resources still needs to be supported by a strong Government with the will to empower and to secure the local benefits of the decentralisation process.

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