Urgent Evoke

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securing land rights for indigenous peoples in Central America

Case Study: Maps of indigenous land-use patterns in Honduras and Paraguay

This project, Participatory Research Mapping, involves personal interviews with indigenous peoples, primarily hunter-gatherers, to determine the location and extent of land that they require for subsistence. The way this was done was to collect oral descriptions of the land and also to examine maps sketched on the ground. Once this information was gathered, researchers used it to create scale maps indicating what land was used by whom. The maps also included information about vegetation to help understand how the ecology factors in to land use patterns. Further, the indigenous people were encouraged to draw maps on paper and to add detail and information to those. The maps that were created have been used to help secure land rights for indigenous peoples in areas that were thought to be empty.

What amazes me about this project is that instead of legislating an easy solution -- for instance, current land-grant practices award 100 hectares per family, but the area is assigned by the government -- the researchers actually took the trouble to access the wealth of information held by the people who live on the land, by ASKING THEM. What a concept. I think the important lesson here is that when you're trying to help a group of people, the best path involves finding out what they really need, and gathering information that they already have.

I wonder if the maps contain information that was not otherwise available -- that is, did the interviews reveal anything that other surveys of the area did not?

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Views: 9

Comment by Sarah Shaw Tatoun on May 6, 2010 at 12:41am
Interesting and heartening story, Ninmah-- thanks for posting it!
Comment by ninmah on May 6, 2010 at 12:50am
Thanks, Sarah, it was fascinating to read about it and uncover the story. I only wish I could have found some images of the maps online.

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