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Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge MOST/CIRAN
HONDURAS BP.26

TITLE

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.

THEMES:
PHYSICAL PLANNING, LAND RECLAMATION, LAND USE, SPATIAL ANALYSIS, MAPPING

COUNTRY: PARAGUAY HONDURAS
Region: Chaco Eastern Honduras
Neighbourhood: "La Patria" - Dpt. Villa Hayes

INDIGENOUS ASPECTS

  • The use of indigenous spatial knowledge to map land-use needs. Maps of Indian land use that do not draw on indigenous knowledge do not incorporate an indigenous perspective on issues such as the ecological structure of the landscape, categories of ecological habitat, ethno-ecological classification, etc..
SUSTAINABILITY
  • Economic sustainability is achieved by demonstrating the economic value of natural resources for subsistence.
  • Other types of sustainability are achieved by helping indigenous peoples to develop the latent ability to communicate macro-environmental data which is critical to their survival as a people.
STAKEHOLDERS AND BENEFICIARIES

The community members are the primary stakeholders and beneficiaries, because the maps will help them to obtain the landed needed for subsistence.They are collaborators in the project, providing the maps that will help them survive.

The number of stakeholders and beneficiaries is 1000-5000 people.

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

STRENGTHS

It empowers indigenous people to clearly communicate macro-environmental information, which is difficult to communicate through normal language.

WEAKNESSES:

It demands time and requires a good working relationship between researchers and indigenous people. (This may be a positive point as well.)

IT IS CONSIDERED TO BE SUCCESSFUL BECAUSE ...:

It enables indigenous people to articulate and communicate spatial data/information. Until now, indigenous people in Western Paraguay have not managed to do this with much success. Such information is crucial in their claims for land rights.

SUCCESS EXPRESSED IN QUALITATIVE OR QUANTITATIVE TERMS:

Some of the results are truly remarkable. Among other things, they emphasize the importance of indigenous spatial knowledge. We must access that knowledge if we are going to understand the complex, and often unseen factors that make up the intricate relationship between indigenous peoples and their environment. If required, Indian-made maps could be cross-referenced with aerial photos and satellite images of the area.

POTENTIAL FOR REPLICATION

With a few adaptations, the project could easily be transferred to other places, but two conditions must be met:

  • The practice works best with people who have an intimate knowledge of their land.
  • It requires a high degree of trust between outside researchers and local people.
This methodology has been replicated in Panama, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cameroon, with slight modifications, by an organisation called Native Lands. The method has also been applied successfully amongst Indians in northern Argentina. In the latter case, the work was co-ordinated by a team from the Anglican Church in that country and Survival International (UK).

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

All maps drawn by indigenous people should be identified with the author's name and copyright.

PERIOD:
From 1994 to 1996

SOURCES OF FUNDING:

The project in Honduras was funded by Cultural Survival

CONTACT PERSON:

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

ORGANISATIONS INVOLVED:

HONDURAS:
Institute that provided this information:

University of Hertfordshire

Cooperating Institutes:

Anglican Church of Paraguay
No address available

Mopawi
Local NGO in Honduras
No address available


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