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Community Maps in Rural Costa Rica: Integrating Local Knowledge and GIS

Community Maps in Rural Costa Rica: Integrating Local Knowledge and GIS

Author(s): Frederic Hyde
Published: 2005
Type: M.E.S. Papers/Theses

Trends in international development have moved from top down management towards a more community based style of project implementation. Research in developing communities has changed from extractive and prescriptive to participatory and locally defined. Most importantly is the use of local knowledge as a base from which to start and implement any development project. Under the larger umbrella of Participatory GIS (PGIS), this study looks at the appropriateness and importance of integrating local knowledge into a series of GIS supported community maps in a developing country and the need for flexibility in PGIS project implementation. This paper draws from several elements of international development practices, the first of which is participatory rural appraisals (PRA), and the second is Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Through the use of mapping workshops, semi-structured interviews, and GIS techniques, this project led to the completion of a series of community maps based on local knowledge. These maps represent community concerns over land-use, and changes to the local environment. This paper demonstrates the importance of ensuring flexibility in methods when implementing projects of this sort, and the appropriateness of integrating local knowledge into GIS based maps.

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