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Extension of Participatory mapping project in Ingende, Province of Equateur Democratic Republic of Congo

03 July 2014

Extension of Participatory mapping project in Ingende, Province of Equateur Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
 
The Rainforest Foundation (RFUK) and its local NGO partner, the Groupe D’action pour Sauver L’Homme et son Environnement (GASHE) will expand RFUK’s current participatory mapping project to the Ingende Territory which will involve up to 200 local and indigenous communities. This region covers about 17,000km² in the forest Province of Equateur in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  The primary reasons for expanding the project are due to the numerous challenges encountered in the province in relation to governance of forest resources. Further to this, there are logging titles and agro-industrial concessions (such as palm oil plantations) that overlap with traditional lands, meaning that there is a heightened risk of local conflicts and poor governance of resources.
 
This particular region is inhabited by approximately 400,000 people - the majority who reside in rural and forest villages which depend upon forest resources for their livelihoods, survival and development. There is a lack of infrastructure making some villages very remote or difficult to access. Consequently, people have little or no access to basic state services such as health and education. Roughly 80% of the population are indigenous and are facing major challenges - most notably discrimination in all aspects of their daily life. Most of the areas that have been visited are claimed under customary ownership and forest communities have expressed an interest in being part of the project so they can use participatory maps to facilitate the claiming of their rights.   
 
“Forest communities are facing major challenges in the region. They have difficulties in accessing forest resources they need for their subsistence and development, thus accentuating their poverty. This situation is the source of so many conflicts recorded in this area and our work can definitely help to address this for the benefit of all” said Julien Mathe, President of GASHE.
 
At the national level, RFUK mapping work can be a relevant tool to contribute to land planning and national forest policies in the DRC whilst at a community level participatory mapping has the potential to be an efficient tool to support communities in negotiating better arrangements with government, and with external companies operating on their land, in order to defend their rights to forest lands and resources. Communities want to be more involved in the management of forest activities that happen in their environment and to benefit from the exploitation of resources. Ngondji Bokok an indigenous representative of the Ingende People said “We think that our participation in the mapping activities will help us to show that these are our forests that have become the private property of powerful people”.
 
How does the mapping occur?
 
The RFUK mapping methodology is based upon “mapping mobile units” composed of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technicians and mapping facilitators who have received GIS training to undertake mapping with forest communities. Community mappers are also trained. Even the most inaccessible areas and villages can be accessed to discuss with local communities the essential components that need to be included in the participatory map. Important data such as the social and economic conditions in the village and GPS data of the land and resources use is collected and other scoping factors are used to develop a preliminary analysis of the context of the targeted area and to plan the next steps of the mapping work.  Data is collected on, for example, the presence of indigenous peoples and different ethnic groups, administrative location, population estimates, contacts of traditional and local authorities, main challenges communities face in terms of use, access and control over resources and presence of external actors for example logging and agro-industrial concessions and project developments. This methodology is beneficial as it can be extended to new areas in a short timeframe with minimal expense.  The RFUK has previously carried out similar work to this successfully with communities in Lukolela territory, Equateur since 2012.
 
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