Participatory Mapping

Compiled by:
Juri Lienert (seecon international gmbh)
Adapted from:
MSP RESOURCE PORTAL (2009)

Executive Summary

Principally, participatory mapping serves as a tool to provide a visual representation of information in a particular geographical context. It is based on a stockholder’s perception with a focus on a certain issue of interest. The regarded topics can vary: geographical and physical conditions (such as available resources and their use), or the differentiated use of natural resources by land users, or potential dangers and threats concerning the use (IFAD 2009). Participatory mapping can also serve as a tool to analyse and present the situation of the water and sanitation system in a local context.

Purpose of Participatory Mapping

Participatory mapping can be done in a small group with one or a few locals or experts. It helps to explore and assess a situation where a development process should take place. It allows to get an insight into a current situation, including the perception of the local stakeholders (see stakeholder analysis). This helps a planner to gain a deeper understanding of the local context, where a SSWM action shall be initiated. The map produced in such a way can serve as a basis for taking decisions how to change the local water and sanitation situation.

Maps allow to collect and position information and to recognise spatial relationships. The best sources of information for drawing a map are the people living in the area (WORLD BANK 1996). The collectively gained information should create a consensus under the involved stakeholders. Besides, many people can provide more information than a single person can. At the same time, participatory mapping helps to gain an insight how the involved people think and how they set their priorities. On the other hand, it can sometimes also be useful to do a locality mapping at the desk, as a first planning step to avoid long discussions and potential conflicts. This basic map can then be complete together with other stakeholders.

Participatory mapping is a participative process. The more people participate in a mapping process, the more insights on the issue can be collected. However, to start a SSWM process, a locality mapping exercise with just a few locals or experts who are familiar with the area and the concerned issue can gain valuable first insights. Later, to get the full picture, the mapping should be repeated in a full participatory mapping process with the community. This shall be done as a part of the decision making process.

Steps for Locality Mapping

   Illustration of the water, nutrition and sanitation situation in Mumbai, India from the viewpoint of the inhabitants

Illustration of the water, nutrition and sanitation situation in Mumbai, India from the viewpoint of the inhabitants. Source: KROPAC (2009)   

1. Ask the individual or the group to draw the boundaries of the geographic unit being discussed. Participants or the planner can decide how they want to represent this – on paper with writing or using local materials such as wet sand and earth with sticks, stones or seeds. Remember that whatever material is chosen, you will always need a paper-based copy to enable comparative analysis. If it adds to the discussion, three-dimensional elements can be added, transforming the map into a model that emphasises landscape-level aspects of issues. This base map can be multiplied and used for different contexts.

2. On whatever medium is chosen, ask the participants to draw the basic outline of the local area, for example, roads, towns or rivers to get an accurate map, One way to do this, if you have the proper resources, is to project an overhead map onto a large sheet of paper and then to trace the required information.

Mongolian community drawing a map of their water resource/sites/default/files/toolbox/CONRADIN 2008 Parcitipatory Mapping Mongolia_medium.JPGs and water / sanitation related problems (Source: K. CONRADIN)

Mongolian community drawing a map of their water resources and water / sanitation related problems. Source: CONRADIN (2007)

Additionally, all kind of materials can be used to illustrate the map.

Additionally, all kind of materials can be used to illustrate the map. Source: NOAA (2009)

3. Having prepared the map, which could be as large as a wall, people can then add their information either directly or by using sticky notes. Let them record what is most significant to them, and then ask for more detail if something you are interested in is missing.

 IFAD 2009

Having prepared the map, people can add relevant information. Source: IFAD (2009)

 

To collect the most important information about the SSWM system of interest, use the following guiding questions to add the missing information:

 

  • Which are the problems a community is confronted with (related to water or sanitation)?
  • Where are these problems located?
  • Where are the hotspots of these problems? Which are the worst?
  • Potentially: Who is responsible for these problems?
  • Are problems connected to each other? How do the problems influence each other?
  • Are there good examples?

 

You can also orient yourself to the understand your system chapter. This chapter explains which information should be included in the map and also questions how to ask for this information.

4. Several modifications to the map may be needed before those involved are happy with the final result. Include additional written comments such as quantities of interest, if necessary.


5. Once a "base" map has been made, subsequent meetings can use it to make comparisons and additions.

 

 Illustration of locality mapping concerning the water and sanitation problematic in a village in South India.

Illustration of locality mapping concerning the water and sanitation problematic in a village in South India. Source: KROPAC (2004) 

If one has completed the mapping process, the “base” map can be used to present the current status. As stated above, the map is very valuable as an illustration of the starting condition, to make comparisons during the ongoing process.
Furthermore, a map produced in such a way can be used as a basis to take decisions in regard to sustainable sanitation and water management – e.g. which problems are the most important and require most attention (see problem and preference ranking). Naturally, information complied in such a way needs further research and complementary information in order to take a good decision where to start with implementation tools.


Applicability

Only those issues that have a geographic distribution are useful to analyse with maps.

Maps are useful for obtaining a better understanding of an area being studied, and for providing information and ideas on local perspectives of, for example, resources or access to services/facilities.

Maps are useful for presenting the gathered information in a nice and understandable way and to make comparisons of the starting conditions and the ongoing process. It is very reasonable to combine this assessment tool with others (water resource assessment, integral description of the settlement conditions, transect walk etc.) and to connect and complete the gathered information relevant for the assessment process.
 

Advantages

  • Helps to let people understand the water and sanitation system of a location
  • Helps people to see connections between problems
  • Provides a visual representation of the location
  • Helps to develop a reliable information base (geographical, social, etc.) to plan a process
  • If done participatory, it reflects the viewpoint of the people and their perception of possible problems

Disadvantages

  • Needs some experience to conduct
  • Be aware of dominant participants – they can bias the findings
  • May not be representative and may hence not reflect the reality, in particular if only done by a single person or by a few
  • Only gives a simple overview of the location – if one needs more complex information (e.g. soil condition, ground water table, water quality etc.) the locality mapping can only serve as a starting point

References Library

IFAD (Editor) (2009): Good Practices in Participatory Mapping. Rome: International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). URL [Accessed: 04.05.2010].

MSP RESOURCE PORTAL (2009): Multi-Stakeholder Processes: Locality Mapping. Wageningen: Wageningen UR Centre for Development Innovation. URL [Accessed: 04.05.2010].

NOOA (Editor) (2009): Stakeholder Engagement Strategies for Participatory Mapping. Charlston: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). URL [Accessed: 22.04.2012].

WORLD BANK (Editor) (1996): The World Bank Participation Source Book. (= Environmental Management Series). Washington: World Bank. URL [Accessed: 04.05.2010].

Further Readings Library

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IFAD (Editor) (2009): Good Practices in Participatory Mapping. Rome: International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). URL [Accessed: 04.05.2010].

This report explores the power of participatory mapping. Covering a range of techniques, intermediaries, tools and impacts, it is shown how a systematic approach could contribute to addressing conflict-related issues and improving community ownership in sustainable environmental and natural resource management.


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NOOA (Editor) (2009): Stakeholder Engagement Strategies for Participatory Mapping. Charlston: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). URL [Accessed: 22.04.2012].

This publication provides some simple strategies for facilitators leading a participatory mapping process. While there are many aspects of participatory mapping, the document focuses primarily on stakeholder involvement.


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HAWKINS (Editor) (2006): Participatory Rural Appraisal in the Southern Gobi. Not published.

The paper documents the research on implementing Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRAs) to investigate water related concerns and vegetation dynamics of herder and vegetable farmer communities in the southern Omnogovi aimag (‘province’) of Mongolia.


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WORLD BANK (Editor) (1996): The World Bank Participation Source Book. (= Environmental Management Series). Washington: World Bank. URL [Accessed: 04.05.2010].

The World Bank understands participation as a process through which stakeholders influence and share control over development initiatives. The sourcebook shall help the reader to discover how this can be provided. Note that due to the large file size of this document, some pages were cropped.


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RIETBERGEN-McCRACKEN, J.; NARAYAN, D. ; WORLD BANK (Editor) (1998): Participation and Social Assessment: Tools and Techniques. Washington: World Bank. URL [Accessed: 10.05.2010].

This resource kit aims to share information and experiences on participatory methods in the context of development cooperation. The primary focus concentrates on providing practical guidance and case examples.


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WSUP (Editor) (2013): Getting communities engaged in water and sanitation projects: participatory design and consumer feedback. London: Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP). URL [Accessed: 26.02.2013].

Community engagement in water and sanitation service delivery is key for ensuring project sustainability and accountability. This Topic Brief looks at community engagement approaches used by WSUP in three cities within the African Cities for the Future (ACF) programme: Antananarivo (Madagascar), Kumasi (Ghana) and Maputo (Mozambique). The Topic Brief highlights some of the key challenges, and ends with practical recommendations for programme managers about how to engage low-income communities in the design of water supply and sanitation projects.


Case Studies Library

Reference icon

HAWKINS (Editor) (2006): Participatory Rural Appraisal in the Southern Gobi. Not published.

The paper documents the research on implementing Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRAs) to investigate water related concerns and vegetation dynamics of herder and vegetable farmer communities in the southern Omnogovi aimag (‘province’) of Mongolia.


Important Weblinks

http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/acdi-cida/acdi-cida.nsf/eng/EMA-218123623-NP9 [Accessed: 25.05.2010]

This website by the Canadian International Development Agency describes several important Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) Methods, including community mapping, Transect Walk, Historical Time Line, Present and Future Action Planning, Gender Division of Labour, Level of Satisfaction Matrix Ranking Matrix, Stakeholder Analysis Diagram. For several of these methods, case studies can be downloaded.