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Samoan Gov't Climate Change Initiative Includes Crowdsourced 3D Map

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, July 3 2013

Now imagine it in 3D. Samoa via Wikipedia

Villagers in Samoa are using a three dimensional map to help make decisions about environment initiatives and disaster prevention. The 3D map is the product of a workshop organized by the forestry division of Samoa's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The project is an example of participatory 3D modeling (P3DM), a crowdsourced mapping method relying heavily on local knowledge.

The map encompasses the region shared by 14 different villages. It was launched at the end of June to “help in the rebirth of nature,” a representative from the village of Solosolo, Vailu'utau Lave, told the Samoa Observer.

“The environment was beautiful back then but now it’s different,” Lave said.

He added:

The 3D map gives us a better understanding of where we are and what we need to do to improve our environment.

Now we can make it beautiful again by targeting locations which were affected by climate change and work on those areas.

It is also very useful for us as we live in mountainous areas where it is targeted by floods and other disasters.

One of the goals of the project was to see how the villages “have been coping with seasonal weather patterns and other changes so far not recorded in human memory.” It is the third part of a four part project called the Integration of Climate Change Risks and Resilience into Forestry Management in Samoa.

One problem: there's only one map to be shared between 14 villages.

Several participatory 3D mapping projects took place in three indigenous communities in Kenya from 2006 to 2008. The goal was to “codify their traditional ecological knowledge (TEK)” and “create a visible manifestation of oral knowledge and a platform...for advocacy, [and assert] territorial rights based on historic usage and management of the resources.”

While the 3D maps are useful tools, and the case study of the Kenyan initiative found they promoted literacy and encouraged community participation, it is up to the government to act on information with regards to resource management and climate change.

“[Strict] conservation is less effective in reducing deforestation than community forests that are managed and controlled by indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities within multiple use systems.” writes Dr. Maurizio Farhan-Ferrari, the Environmental Governance Programme Coordinator of the Forest Peoples Programme.

In 2012 Farhan-Ferrari wrote about the project Forest Peoples, Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods, in which participants in six countries made crowdsourced land and resource maps.

The studies provide insight on the sophistication of indigenous and local management systems and the remarkable complexity of customary law systems, which guide responsible use of resources in a variety of landscapes. They also describe the threats that their customary management systems face and provide recommendations to local and national governments about actions that should be taken in order to improve support for these age-old sustainable management systems; on-the-ground initiatives need a supportive policy and legal environment at the national level to thrive and flourish.

Since the Samoan government has incorporated P3DM into national climate change research, it seems like they also have an appreciation for indigenous knowledge.

h/t Patrick Meier

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.