The social nature of forest resources: Community Mapping for more effective and equitable management in the Kayan Mentarang National Park
In Kayan Mentarang National Park, participatory community mapping played a significant role in the planning and development of the park itself. Mapping was instrumental in proving that a community-based management of the conservation area was a necessity and a right. Moreover, it proved important in recommending the change of status from nature reserve to national park, and a well-suited methodology to plan for the collaborative management of the park. Not surprisingly, participatory community mapping gained the highest score among field activities by community respondents in a satisfaction survey conducted by WWF in 2005.
WWF-Indonesia’s new book, Communities and Conservation: 50 Inspiring Stories from WWF to Indonesia, is a celebration of WWF-Indonesia’s 50-year long journey as a conservation organization.
Emerging strongly from that long journey and all the stories in the book is the lesson that communities are on the front line of conservation and need to be key partners in conservation. Conservation is a key factor in sustainable development, and indigenous and local peoples need to be made part of the process as key partners and beneficiaries.
Eighteen of the fifty stories are from the Heart of Borneo, but all the stories show the effectiveness of conservation when indigenous peoples, their knowledge and practices, are involved in the decision making process. This is also well illustrated by the following story on Participatory Community Mapping in the Kayan Mentarang National Park, East Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Map is a powerful tool, with visual force, to expose the power and social relations embedded in the utilization and management of natural resource. Therefore maps are often used for advocacy. With its visual force, map is able to show direct and clear ways the domains of management, use and ownership as practiced by the communities, and their dependence on those resources. It makes evident what is often hidden and misunderstood: the knowledge of the land and it resources, and traditional management practices of local and indigenous communities.
Community Mapping in Kayan Mentarang National Park started in 1992 with a trial exercise and experiment in the village of Long Uli, on the Bahau River. The development of the complete methodology and systematic approach took place in 1994-1996. Key dimensions of the exercise regard indigenous ways to organize and use space and patterns of land use; field transects and resource maps to assess the existence and abundance of those resources; and customary regulations on how land and resources are used and managed. During community mapping, the social history of the village or community is also reconstructed as well and boundaries of the customary land and with other villages. The entire process is conducted through the perspectives of men, women, and the youth.
Geographically and socially, the Kayan Mentarang National Park overlaps with eleven customary lands of Dayak Kenyah, Kayan, Lundayeh, Sa’ban, Punan, Tahol, and other sub-ethnic groups. For the most part, they are rice farmers (both dry agriculture and wet agriculture), they collect and trade non-timber forest product (NTFP) over the centuries such as resin, rattan, gaharu and others, they also fish and hunt. While the mapping was conducted in all the villages, the results of each village in one customary land were compiled into a customary land map. The latter was defined as the most significant social unit for framing the mapping process and recognition of the rights of the Indigenous Peoples. In this respect, it can be said that participatory mapping in and around the Kayan Mentarang National Park was in fact a ‘customary land’ mapping.
Between 1996 and 1998, the eleven customary lands were mapped by the indigenous people themselves. WWF facilitated, trained and assisted in the process, but communities (men, women, and the youth) were the main actors as well as the main beneficiaries the mapping process.
With the capacity to transmit information that can be read easily by outsiders, map becomes an important tool in discussions and negotiations with the government and private sector. Among communities themselves, maps represent a basis for resolving local boundary and other disputes.
Mapping is an important tool to help ensure that any planning process and change of conservation status or any other management decision are conducted in more participatory ways and in line with the FPIC (free and prior informed consent) principle. Mapping in Kayan Mentarang has recognized and advocated indigenous peoples’ rights in park management, this includede agreement on the external boundary of the conservation area; village and farming land enclaves the villages within from the park; adoption of customary regulations and practices for the management of the park and zonation system.
Mapping is not a static tool. It is helpful to monitor the trends and changes that happen in the field and prepare development plans that take into account the environment while respecting the wisdom and aspirations of the communities. Moreover, the fact that local people themselves can master mapping techniques does increase their ability to control, manage, and monitor the information contained in the maps to prevent misuse of natural resources and manage sustainably their lands.