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Ikobé Interactive Map
Ikobé Interactive Map
Login to view georeferenced community data Makoko Motombi Mimongo Evouta Sogha Nioye2 Divindé Eghouba Divangha Tchibanga Ndoughou Ossimba Tranquille Nioye1 Interview with Benoit Enzengui video Music of Ikobé video Interview with Leonard Odambo video Samuel Mapedi, Sitar Player video 3D mapping workshop Waka National Park Botanical resources of Ikobé Rivers of Ikobé Logging activities in Ikobé Logging in Ikobé video

The commune of Ikobé is located on the Massif du Chaillu, Ngounié Province - in one of the most remote parts of Gabon. If Libreville is the political heart of the country then the Massif du Chaillu could be said to be not just its physical but also its spiritual heart. The local inhabitants - the Mitsogo and the indigenous Babongo - can be traced back to the area for more than 4,000 years and are renowned for their knowledge and mastery of Bwiti, - a set of mystical animistic traditions that have spread across Gabon and beyond.

The mountainous terrain helps to retain the area's distinctive cultural identity and the wide variety of wildlife that can be observed here. The poor state of local roads, which are often impassable in the rainy season, ensures that poaching levels remain relatively low in the area. On the other hand, the inaccessibility of the region means that local communities have very little access to health or education services. The nearest secondary school is 100 kilometres away in the town of Fougamou.  

In total, there are 17 villages in the area, three of which lie away from the roadside deep in the forest. Local communities traditionally live by farming, hunting, fishing and gathering but are today facing pressures from both logging and conservation activities. Decades of logging have brought little lasting benefit. Concerns have been raised by civil society organisations about the poor social and environmental practices of the current concession holders in the area, which are from Malaysia and China. Intensive logging inside the nearby Waka National Park continued until 2005, three years after its creation. Today, the boundaries of the Park, whose headquarters are based in an abandoned logging camp, stretch to within only a few kilometres of the local communities, meaning that many are unable to access their traditional lands and resources because of the restrictions now in force.


Brainforest, in collaboration with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC), the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and MINAPYGA have been coordinating a participatory 3D mapping exercise - the first of its kind in the region - with 15 Mitsogo and indigenous Babongo communities in the Ikobé commune on the edge of the Waka National Park in 2010/11. Participatory 3D Modelling (P3DM) is a community-based mapping method which "integrates local spatial knowledge with data on elevation of the land and depth of the sea to produce stand-alone, scaled and geo-referenced relief models. Essentially based on local spatial knowledge, land use and cover and other features are depicted by informants on the model by the use of pushpins (points), yarns (lines) and paints (polygons). On completion, a scaled and geo-referenced grid is applied to facilitate data extraction or importation. Data depicted on the model are extracted, digitized and plotted" (Rambaldi). Unlike most community mapping techniques, which normally involve local people going into the forest to collect geo-referenced data, participatory 3D modeling brings different people together in one place. The approach is particularly well suited to areas with hilly or mountainous terrain.

In Ikobé, participatory 3D mapping is being used to support local communities to present their local knowledge to decision makers in order to create dialogue about their rights to land and resources. The model created depicts a highly detailed vision of the local landscape from a unique and historical perspective based on a legend created by local people according to their own local language and symbols. It will serve as a key tool to assist with the development of a management plan for the Waka National Park which recognizes these rights.

The activity - which is the first of its kind in Central Africa - has also served as a regional training exercise.  The construction of the first section of the model brought local communities, the park conservation authority and other members of the local administration together with indigenous peoples and NGOs from other parts of Gabon and eight other countries. It is envisaged that this exercise will serve as a catalyst for other such mapping activities across the region.

Watch this video Close to our Ancestors produced by IPACC and CTA with the support of RFUK to find out more about the people of Ikobé and participatory 3D modelling.


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