FAQs

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at mappingforrights@rainforestuk.org.

What are the different user access levels for the MappingForRights Congo Basin Community Atlas?

There are three user access levels:

Level 1: unregistered users will be able to view information on villages, education and health centres mapped as well as areas surveyed by communities. This also allows access to all of the third-party datasets used on the platform.

Level 2: registered users will also be able to view livelihood data collected by communities. You can log-in or register here.

Level 3: trusted users will be able to view information on customary land tenure and sites of cultural importance as well as being able to access the explore tab and download services. You can log-in or register here.

How do I apply for level 3 access?

Access to levels 2 and 3 is granted on a case by case basis on the basis of information provided about your intended use of the CBCA and requires you to agree to a ‘database user agreement’. You can request Level 3 access here or by contacting us at mappingforrights@rainforestuk.org.

Can I access all of the data on the CBCA?

Different access levels are designed to ensure that, as far as possible, the maps are used for the benefit of the communities involved in their production. All of the community-related data contained in this database should be regarded as the intellectual property of the communities concerned. It may contain 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 discretion of the Rainforest Foundation UK.

Why is there a 5km 'usage zone' for the surveyed areas?

The surveyed areas’ layer consists of a 5 kilometre likely ‘usage area’ from the outermost survey data point recorded by the communities. The reason for this is that it is typical for a person to travel more than 5km from a particular forest inhabitation in a day for hunting, fishing or gathering activities. The surveyed area is intended only to be indicative but serves to demonstrate the likely extent of forest use based on known forest use locations and the dynamic nature of forest livelihoods. 

How do you intend to use the information on MappingForRights?

MappingForRights is intended to enable forest communities themselves to demonstrate their presence in the forest; decision-makers and the private sector to take account of and recognise this presence; and to assist the international community in ensuring that programmes concerned with the Congo Basin’s forests provide equitable benefits for local communities.

Decisions about the use of the Congo Basin’s forests, where they have used maps at all, have 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 land and resource related conflict as well as other negative outcomes. Research has shown clearly that securing traditional rights to lands and resources is one of the most effective means of maintaining biodiversity, reducing deforestation and alleviating poverty in rural communities.

Participatory maps supported under the programme have been used in a number of ways such supporting the creation of community forests, informing participatory land use planning, enabling community participation in the management of protected areas, ensuring the application of safeguards that relate to land and resource rights or to mitigate or halt potentially harmful infrastructure projects.

What are your plans for MappingForRights?

As of April 2020, we have supported over 1,000 communities in producing maps of their lands and resources covering more than seven million hectares of forest. This represents only a fraction of the work that needs to be done. Our aim is therefore to extend participatory mapping to as many forest communities as possible. In order to build a better picture of the extent of community occupation and use of forests, we will continue to include community maps supported by other organisations, as long as these have been developed according to strong participatory mapping standards and have the free, prior and informed consent of the communities in question.  

What are the data sources for the information in the database?

The key part of the atlas consists of community-produced maps, which have mostly been generated with the support of the Rainforest Foundation UK and our regional partner organisations. This has involved community mapping teams working on the ground with hundreds of villages over many years. Other information layers are used with the permission of other providers, notably the World Resources Institute. 

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.

Can I contribute to MappingForRights?

In principle, yes. We welcome mapping data or any other contribution that helps build a better picture of community occupation and use of forests in the Congo Basin. The MappingForRights CBCA has been built on Open Source software which enables it to be expanded and adapted to include new data that will support this aim.

While we welcome the inclusion of community maps supported by other organisations, it is important that these have demonstrably been developed according to strong participatory mapping standards (see here, for example) involving the free, prior and informed consent of the communities in question.  Community mapping which has been carried out in an extractive manner can misrepresent the true extent of community land tenure or resource use, and can risk 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.

Have do you engage with governments in the countries you work in?

We see constructive engagement with governments as crucial to ensuring that forest communities are recognised for their essential role in forest protection, and are accorded appropriate rights. RFUK has supported participatory mapping in five countries in the Congo Basin over a period of several years and worked with governments in a number of areas. 

In addition to providing access to information to support forest planning and management, this has included training government staff and technicians on participatory GIS and on participatory methodologies for working with communities and well as the development of a national community forest database in DRC.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at mappingforrights@rainforestuk.org.