Participatory digital resource mapping

This building block builds on perception mapping, combining it with digital data and spatial tech to produce detailed and useful county and ward resource maps, documenting community knowledge of resources and attributes. The participatory mapping process allows traditional knowledge to enhance digital national-level data and vice versa.


Workshops introduced the project; Open Street maps satellite imagery was projected onto a wall alongside paper perception maps, and participants worked to transfer points of interest from the paper maps into GIS using coordinates to pinpoint locations in a way that could be verified and shared. Qualitative data on key resource points was then embedded into the spatial data. The maps were shared with participants and other stakeholders for feedback, before the process was repeated to refine. 


Locally-grounded, scientifically-sound maps are useful in dryland contexts, where pastoralists must be able to utilize different resources at different times of year. Such maps also demonstrate– in a format understood by planners and others –where key resources are located, and how poorly planned/non-participatory development projects may restrict pastoralists’ access to resources. 

This building block was relevant to county planning processes and was an integral component of the CCCF mechanism. Being part of the CCCF mechanism meant that the process would have a tangible outcome, for example for guiding investments, and were available to other partners for technical support.

Where necessary, e.g. when locations were covered by clouds in the satellite imagery, participants made quick ground-truthing visits by motorbike, using GPRS-enabled mobile devices to identify locations of important resources. Therefore, there is a need to make contingency plans for ground-truthing that would work in your context.


Identifying the appropiate scale is key; it isn’t always appropriate to stick to administrative boundaries when mapping, especially in pastoralists areas where administrative boundaries are frequently crossed to access resources. It’s important to think about which scale is suitable in your context. 


Returning the maps to those who helped build them is critical, but technology could be a barrier. Leaving maps with communities usually means having to print them out. 


Uptake and use of Open Maps was very quick, even among those with no prior experience of using digital technology – the 3D terrain model, which provided side-on views of familiar features was helpful here.