Participatory Research Mapping (PRM). Using maps of indigenous land-use patterns to help indigenous peoples claim land rights.

Description

The practice helps indigenous hunter-gatherers draw their own maps of the lands and resources required for their subsistence. The aim is to help indigenous people communicate their need for land to government authorities through their spatial knowledge of the landscapes and ecosystems they inhabit. We encourage people to draw progressively more complex maps of the sites and areas used for their subsistence. Projects in Honduras and Paraguay are described in this report.

In Honduras, the project was co-ordinated by MOPAWI, a local NGO, and several indigenous organisations. The project aimed at developing a clearer understanding of indigenous land-use patterns so that an appropriate strategy could be designed to legally reclaim historic land rights.

The project was funded by Cultural Survival. Indian 'surveyors' designed a questionnaire, which they then administered to all villages in the eastern Honduras region (population 40,000). The data was gathered through public meetings, and included oral and graphical descriptions of the sites and areas used by villages for their subsistence. The surveyors gathered the information, and professional researchers used the information to draw up 1:50,000 scale maps of the region. Circles were drawn around the sites identified to show the approximate extent of lands used. Village-level data was grouped into zones, and the resulting map was published at a scale of 1:500,000. The researchers included a vegetation overlay on the map to highlight the relationship between land-use and the landscape�s ecology.

In Paraguay, the project focussed on helping Indians draw detailed maps to communicate their indigenous knowledge of land and resource-use. The practical purpose of the research was to shed light on the extent and quality, in ecological terms, of the lands the Indians needed for subsistence. (This is now a major issue in Paraguay, where land is being given to Indians on an externally-determined amount of 100 hectares per family).

The project began from people's own practice of sketching maps on the ground. During daily conversations, these maps were drawn to describe the location of a particular site with reference to roads and man-made features. Indians were encouraged to add more detail to these maps and to try their hand at drawing them on paper. This process took on a life of its own, as the Indians started to produce maps independently.

PERIOD: From 1994 to 1996

SOURCES OF FUNDING: The project in Honduras was funded by Cultural Survival

Andrew P. Leake
University of Hertfordshire
E-mail: andrewleake@yahoo.com

For more information, please visit:

http://www.unesco.org/most/bpik26.htm