UK: UK-based NGO Rainforest Foundation has initiated a new project to place community mapping of central African rainforests online. The organisation worked with forest communities in five African countries to create digital maps of local forests, including use areas, parks and threats such as logging and mining.
The website, MappingForRights.org, where the maps can be accessed, includes interactive maps, photos and video.
“It is now widely understood that helping indigenous peoples and other local communities to protect their land is one of the best and cheapest ways to conserve tropical rainforests. But the problem is that there are often no records even of where these communities are, or of which areas of forest they use or wish to protect,” explains Simon Counsell, director of the Rainforest Foundation.
Forest communities in central Africa have fought long, and often losing battles, with logging and mining industries. They have also seen traditional lands taken away for strict wildlife protection. Community mapping may be a way forward in mitigating future conflict, establishing long-sought rights, and establishing more inclusive wildlife areas.
The new site brings together 10 years of mapping work by Rainforest Foundation and other groups in the region, and could be an example for other parts of the world where marginalized forest communities are seeking recognition.