Community-led 3D mapping of natural resources in North Darfur


February 16th, 2016

The primary goal of the Wadi el Ku Catchment Management Forum Project is to demonstrate how the promotion of inclusive natural resource management (NRM) systems and practices can help rebuild inter-community relations, enhance local livelihoods and contribute to peace in North Darfur.

Locating natural resources on 3D map

Practical Action and project partner the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have adopted a range of interventions targeting both local natural resource users and custodians, with the latter including technical support for government institutions responsible for natural resource management in North Darfur.

Students prepare 3D map

Activities to promote NRM at the local level include:

  • Community participatory action plan development for all 34 village clusters in the project area;
  • Training of local natural resource management extension agents to act as champions of natural resource management and pass on knowledge and techniques to their wider communities;
  • Building water-harvesting structures designed to meet the needs of diverse water users upstream and downstream. (see my other blogs for more information)

UNEP and Practical Action decided to try a different approach to building consensus over natural resources in North Darfur through the creation of a three dimensional map with the participation of local communities and facilitated by a 3D mapping expert from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The project targets a 50km stretch of Wadi (seasonal rain-fed river bed) El Ku. However, to produce a three dimensional map of sufficient detail and topographical scale, the mapping exercise concentrated on only 25km of the project area, with the intention of later producing a second map of the rest.

This participatory process took a little over three weeks. Farmers, pastoralists, native administration, youth, and other community leaders from more than 10 villages took part in the map.  Students from two local secondary schools were also enlisted help in the labor-intensive process of creating the papier-mâché base map.

3D mappingLively debates were held by community representatives as they discussed the location and types of different natural and man-made resources to be featured in the map, including  migratory routes, gullies, clay soils, sandy soils, mountains, water points (e.g. boreholes, shallow wells, and hafirs), water-harvesting structures, crop growing areas and forests. All the while, they were cutting out, glueing, and painting these resources onto the map.

Throughout the mapping exercise, and as more and more layers and resources were added to the map, facilitators from UNEP and Practical Action asked communities what had surprised them about their resources in their area when looking not just at their own communities but the wider mapping area. Five observations were repeatedly heard.

  • The almost total extent of deforestation in the area, whereas only 10 years ago significant areas of natural and government forests had existed.
  • Many farmers came to realize that while pastoralists are mostly held responsible for crop damage that occurs when they seasonally migrate with their animals, it was evident that greater and greater areas of what used to be open land had been encroached by farmers seeking new cultivable land, making crop damage increasingly unavoidable.
  • The extensive formation of deep gullies across what used to be a relatively flat wadi bed had lead to greater water concentration and the consequent reduction in arable land.
  • The proliferation of unplanned earth embankments, designed to capture water as it flows down the wadi, played a critical role in the gully formation described above.
  • Over reliance on millet growing in sandy soils has had a highly negative impact on soil fertility.

Through the process of creating this map, the community participants gradually reached consensus around the key natural resources in their areas. How far this consensus can be extended to their wider communities and government institutions is yet to be seen, but it is a good start and the map represents an effective physical tool for NRM planning and advocacy to that effect.

The 3-dimensional map, which measures approximately 4.5 meters by 2.5 meters, is on display at the Women’s Development Association Network where it is easily accessible to visitors from communities, NGOs, government staff.

Putting the finishing touches on 3D NRM map

2 responses to “Community-led 3D mapping of natural resources in North Darfur”

  1. Nahid Ali Says:

    Well done Awadalla

  2. Samah Omer Says:

    Great work North Darfur team!
    It is really interesting to know that participants from schools, women associations, governmental and non-governmental parties have all participated in mapping their areas and illistrate their resources in 3D map which could be seen and touched!.. This is an inspiring experience which will positively contribute to the natural resources management in the area.
    Many thanks Awadalla for sharing this interestig blog.

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