P for Participatory Mapping


“Maps are more than pieces of paper. They are stories, conversations, lives and songs lived out in a place and are inseparable from the political and cultural contexts in which they are used.”

– Warren, 2004

Participatory mapping is a general set of approaches and tools used to cartographically represent spatial, geographical, ecological and social data of a region area or community. It is based on the premise that the most comprehensive knowledge of a region is in the possession of the local community. Hence the mapping is done in close cooperation with the local community. The maps combine the aspects of scientific mapping and cartography with the socio- cultural and ecological information as it is perceived by the members of the community. It often illustrates socially and culturally significant information that is often excluded from mainstream maps. It is often used to map information like land boundaries, traditional resource management practice, land uses, mythology, demography, agricultural resources, ethno-linguistic groups and wealth distributions to name a few.


While the more well known examples where Participatory Mapping have been implemented are in rural and tribal contexts, it is also a very useful tool in urban contexts .Especially in the cases of informal settlements or settlements in vulnerable zones within an urban setup this mapping methodology can be used to map and record land rights and uses, historical data, demographical information, occupation etc. This is particularly relevant in the case of inner city communities that have been settled informally for generations or even in the cases of cities with sensitive and precious ecology within its limits or its scopes of expansion.

• To help communities articulate and communicate spatial knowledge to external agencies
• To allow communities to record and archive indigenous and local knowledge
• To assist communities in land-use Planning and resource management
• To enable communities to advocate for change
• To Increase Capacity Within Communities
• To Address Resource related Conflict

Participatory can be used against the very same community that the information was obtained from. The process may bring to light some potentials of the area that could make the community vulnerable to exploitation.

Further Reading
Case Study: Cairo
Case Study: Participatory Slum Mapping, India
Related keywords: Community Mapping; Ethnocartography

Handbook for Participatory Mapping by International land Coalition
Handbook for Participatory Mapping by IFAD


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