Field Guide: Participatory Mapping for Soil and Water Resources

Participatory mapping is an excellent way of learning in greater detail about the community, their resources, the hazards they face, and how the village, farm fields, roads the hills and water sources interrelate. It’s also an excellent method for community members to see things they take for granted every day through a new lens. Participatory mapping is an inclusive tool because all workshop participants can engage in the activity and it’s very visual—non-readers will not be excluded.

 Getting Started

Consider returning to the village the day before the workshop to tour the farm fields, forests, and water sources with one of the villagers. Take a few minutes to talk to people you meet in order to gain a greater understanding of the scale of the community and to get a better sense of some of the challenges they are facing.

The purpose of the workshop is for community members to understand the impact of sun, wind, runoff, crop selection, location of water sources, floods, drought, and variable rains.

Draw the community map on a sheet of newsprint—or several sheets taped together. Begin by drawing a very simple drawing of the spatial relationships between the different parts of the community and how the village relates to the farm fields, hills, very steep hills and sources of water. Mark where transportation routes are—including roads and pathways. One suggestion is to quickly draw a preliminary map, make corrections and adjustments, and then transfer the revised map information to a fresh sheet of paper for further development.

Be sure to include:
-farmlands and their relationship to the village
-sources of household and agricultural water and their relationship to the village/farmlands
-rivers and streams
-the location of steep hillsides or canyons
-the location of main roads and pathways
-the location of what crops are grown where
-community land, forest boundaries, grazing/pasture lands

When everybody at the workshop is satisfied with the basic map, you can begin indicating other useful information on the map. It’s a good idea to represent buildings and farmer’s plots using piece of colored paper that can be attached to the map with removable tape so they can be moved or adjusted; by removing these bits of paper completely the map can be used again for a different assessment.

When everyone is satisfied that the map is accurate, introduce the idea of hazards that the community suffers. These hazards could include extreme weather events, floods, heavy rainfall, drought and landslides. The information that we want from this part of the exercise is which parts of the community, which people, which personal assets, which environmental resources, and which livelihoods are the most vulnerable to the hazards as identified on the hazard map. Examples could be:
-farmlands vulnerable to drought (or insufficient access to water)
-farmlands vulnerable to flooding, too much wind exposure and other weather related hazards
-areas with too little or too much sun
-areas that suffer from excessive runoff
-farmer perception of the fertility of their soil: good, medium, or poor

Conclusion: To discuss and reinforce what has been learned and to discuss.
1. Discuss and review what has been learned.
2. Reinforce the soil and water challenges farmers face that were identified during the mapping exercise.
3. Discuss whether hazards such as, floods, variable rainfall and drought impact soil and water resources. Introduce the following questions:
-Are the hazards concentrated in one area of the community?
-What negative impacts will the hazards have on community members and their assets?
-What is a prioritization of the community’s greatest hazards they face?
-Who in the community is the most at risk from the hazards?
4. Summarize a list of the challenges and hazards farmers face in preparation for next week’s visit by extension agent.

What are the community members’ current coping strategies for dealing with these difficult periods?
Capacity building: Which of the difficult events are they having trouble coping with due to a lack of strategies?


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