Kisoro, 7 June 2011 – A participatory mapping and 3D modelling project is underway in Kisoro, south west Uganda, focussing on how the Batwa people use the land and natural resources.
The Batwa mapping exercise is focussing on the forests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. These forests belong to the ancestral territories of the Batwa. Bwindi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, best known for the primates that make their home there. About 340 Mountain gorillas are found within the park, making it one of the key refuges for this critically endangered species.
Through a series of workshops with 8 Batwa communities living around the Bwindi hosted by UOBDU, the United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda, and technically facilitated by scientists of ERMIS Africa (Kenya) with financial support from Forest Peoples Programme (UK) through a grant from Arcus Foundation, a participatory 3D modelling of the park and surrounding areas was created.
“Workshop participants can now apply their traditional knowledge of the forests onto the models”, says Arend de Haas, director of African Conservation Foundation. “This may include any territorial boundaries of each clan group, the natural resources traditionally used and available in different sections of the park, as well as ecological and other knowledge identified by the Batwa in the course of the mapping process”.
The mapping process involves the training of approximately 80 Batwa community representatives. Groups are composed of equal numbers of male and female participants, youth and elder representatives. The process of participatory mapping brings communities together inter-generationally, as they draw upon their traditional knowledge and exchange vital information.
P3DM involves the creation of accurate scale models of territories using low technology material like cardboard and paint. Once completed these blank 3-dimensional models can then have various layers of information applied to them including resources use patterns, climatic conditions, biodiversity zones and spiritual and cultural locations.
The applications for P3DM include resolving spatial issues like land disputes, as a platform for revitalizing cultural knowledge across generations and genders, and for providing valuable information for natural resources management and biodiversity conservation.
The project is designed as an opportunity to build links between Batwa communities and the protected area managers. Once harnessed, the traditional knowledge and traditional ways of life of the Batwa, could be essential in the future conservation of the Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi.
“This participative mapping project will help us because our knowledge will be recognised and used to develop sustainable development opportunities for our communities”, says Evas, workshop participant and member of the Kitariro community based south of Bwindi.
The Batwa and their livelihoods are intimately connected to their lands. Seen by as the indigenous inhabitants of the forests of the Greater Virunga Area, the Batwa believe they have and always will be the owners and custodians of these forests.
As human pressure on the forests increased and through the creation of protected area the Batwa were formally evicted from the remaining forested areas of the Greater Virunga Area. Since these evictions, the Batwa have been unable to compete on equal terms with other ethnic groups outside the forest and they remain one of the most marginalised and poorest groups of society.
By Arend de Haas (ACF) & Julius Muchemi (ERMIS Africa).
Photo credits: Arend de Haas / African Conservation Foundation
Notes to editors:
ERMIS (Environmental Research, Mapping and Information Systems) Africa is a regional NGO based in Kenya. Since 1999, ERMIS has worked with several local communities around Kenyan forests using participatory mapping tools such as GIS P3DM, GPS, Aerial photography, and web-mapping.
The UK-based Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) supports the rights of peoples who live in forests and depend on them for their livelihoods. FPP works to create political space for forest peoples to secure rights, control their lands and decide their own futures.
The Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC) is a conservation oriented research institute located on the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP). ITFC is the leading environmental research agency in the Greater Virunga Area and the focal point for research carried out on the Mountain Gorillas.
The United Organisation for Batwa in Uganda (UOBDU) was established in 2000. Its aim is to support Batwa communities in south west Uganda to address their land problems and help them develop sustainable alternative livelihoods.