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Participatory mapping in the Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca

February 25, 2013

Participatory mapping in the Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca

The two-year process began in April 2011, as regional coordinator Alberto Montezuma negotiated project approval with local authorities

By involving a broad group of people in a project to map and survey the biodiversity of Cerro Santiago in the Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca, Alicia Ibáñez, a botanist on the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group's Panama project along with Derek Smith from Canada's Carleton University and Francisco Herrera from the University of Panama, shared their enthusiasm for discovery while learning from residents of five Ngäbe communities.

Ngäbe participants documented the mapping process with solar-powered flip cameras and miniprojectors supplied by One Media Player per Teacher through Charlotte Elton, a founding member of Panama's Center for Social Action and Studies (CEASPA).

The two-year process began in April 2011, as regional coordinator Alberto Montezuma negotiated project approval with local authorities. After GPS training, residents created a rough map outline. Taking advantage of a break in the rain during the dry season, they located features on the landscape and added information. Finished maps were presented to the communities by year's end in 2012.

Montezuma hopes this was just a first step toward mapping forests in the comarca, a vital biological corridor and source of resources sustaining the traditional Ngäbe way of life.

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