Frequently Asked Questions
How do you intend to use the information on Mapping for Rights?
Our intention is that the information on Mapping for Rights be used to inform policy and legal debates, including on land tenure issues, as well as practical forest planning and zoning programmes - in the Congo Basin and beyond. Forest planning has thus far relied heavily on remote sensing data (such as satellite imagery), largely ignoring existing community "ownership", occupation and use of forests. This has often led to ill-advised and poorly planned decision making, and ultimately conflicts over land and resources, because it has ignored the reality of communites' occupation and customary claims over forest lands.
We intend the data on Mapping for Rights to be used, primarily, in order to demonstrate the presence of local and indigenous forest communities and ensure that they are taken into account in how forest lands are allocated and managed. Research has shown clearly that securing of traditional rights to lands and resources is one of the most effective ways of maintaining biodiversity, reducing deforestation and alleviating poverty in rural communities. Specifically, participatory maps have been used in a number of innovative ways including supporting the creation of community forests, enabling community participation in the management of protected areas and through mitigating or halting potentially harmful infrastructure projects, and have a number of other potentially useful applications.
What are your plans for the MappingForRights database?
Although as of November 2011, we have supported over 300 communities to produce geo-referenced maps of their lands and resources covering more than 2 million hectares of forest, this represents only a fraction of the work that needs to be done. Our aim is therefore to gather as much community-generated geo-referenced data as possible by extending participatory mapping to as many communities as possible. We will also include data from other relevant organisations on the MappingForRights platform. This will build a better picture of the full extent of community occupation and use of forests to enable more informed decision making in local, national and regional planning processes.
Why can’t I access all of the data on the database?
All of the community-related data contained in this database should be regarded as the intellectual property of the communities involved. It may contain within it sensitive geographic information which communities may not wish to share with some interests. As such, certain data may be withheld from full public disclosure at the request of the communities concerned, or at the discretion of the Rainforest Foundation UK. Different levels of access to the database are designed to ensure that, as far as possible, the integrity of the intellectual property of the data is retained, and that it is used for the benefit of the communities involved in its production.
What are the data sources for the information in the database?
The MappingForRights database consists of community-produced data, which has mostly been generated with the support of the Rainforest Foundation UK and our regional partner organisations. Other layers of information are used with the permission of other sources, notably the World Resources Institute. For more information on this, please see the Data Sources page.
How accurate is the data?
Community mapping data is mainly collected using GPS technology with an accuracy of between 5 to 10 metres. Note that community land use as well as that of other actors is not always static and can change over time. Data can therefore be subject to change, and some of the activities recorded in the maps are, by their nature, transient, and possibly subject to cyclical change. For information on the accuracy of the background layers on the MappingForRights database, please refer to the specific sources of this data, available to view on the Data Sources page
Can I contribute to MappingForRights ?
In principle, yes. We welcome contributions of relevant geo-referenced data or other information which supports informed planning and decision-making regarding forests and forest communities and we remain open to ideas and potential collaborations for how we can achieve a more sustainable and equitable management of forest lands and resources. The Mapping for Rights platform has been built on Open Source software which enables the database to be expanded and adapted to include new data that will support this aim.
While RFUK is open to, and actively seeks, the inclusion of ‘participatory mapping data' undertaken or commissioned by other parties, we have a strict policy and criteria for what actually legitimately constitutes this term, which are set out here. Community mapping that has been done in an extractive manner or not in the best interests of communities concerned, can misrepresent the true extent of community land tenure or resource use, which risks further marginalising or undermining communities' actual or claimed rights. For more information on how to contribute to the database, please contact us at MappingForRights@rainforestuk.org or on +44 (0)20 7485 0193.
Have you engaged with any Governments about the content of the database?
Yes. We have been undertaking participatory mapping in five countries in the Congo Basin over a period of several years. The last three years of our work in particular have involved engaging on a systematic basis with Government in CAR, Republic of Congo and Gabon. Notably in CAR, the maps we have produced, which are contained on the database, have already been used in policy processes and official discussions with government on the implementation of the Forest Code (in particular in the area of community forests), and around the issue of national parks.
Over the last three years, we have aimed to support greater government engagement by including government staff and technicians in training on the use of GIS and on participatory methodologies for working with communities, and involving government agents in dialogues with the concerned communities. We aim to continue and build on this work with governments in the future.
How do you plan to engage with governments?
We see constructive engagement with Governments as crucial to ensuring that forest communities are recognised for their essential role in forest protection, and accorded appropriate rights. It is important that they are involved at every step of the process of participatory mapping, so that dialogue on the issues affecting forest communities is more informed and constructive after the mapping has been undertaken. In the coming years, in Central African Republic, for example, we will continue to work in close collaboration with the Ministry of Forests and the national High Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance in the implementation of the community forests provisions of the Forest Law, as well as on using participatory maps to show the extent of land and resource use of indigenous peoples in particular. This should support an ongoing dialogue on the implementation of the land and resource rights provisions of ILO Convention No. 169.
Participatory mapping has a number of applications concerning forest policy development, for instance in national zoning processes and in the implementation and monitoring of REDD schemes. We aim to work with the relevant governments to ensure that the data contained within the database supports zoning processes to the benefit of forest communities.
If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to contact us at MappingForRights@rainforestuk.org or on +44 (0)20 7485 0193.
Who has been involved in setting up MappingForRights and collecting the information in it?
The Mapping for Rights website and database has been developed in collaboration with the following two organisations:
Website - Oil Internet Ltd, http://www.oilinternet.com/
Database - Lutra Consulting UK, http://www.lutra.co.uk