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Indigenous communities deploy high-tech mapmaking to staunch global land grab

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Posted August 30, 2013
Indigenous communities deploy high-tech mapmaking to staunch global land grab

Tohap Pandiangan, a member of the Pandumaan community in North Sumatra, Indonesia harvests resin from benzoin trees, which is at the center of their land dispute with the pulp producer PT Toba Pulp Lestari. Credit: Gregor MacLennan/Digital Democracy.

With governments, loggers, miners and palm oil producers poaching their lands with impunity, indigenous leaders from 17 countries gathered on a remote island in Sumatra this week to launch a global fight for their rights that will take advantage of powerful mapping tools combined with indigenous knowledge to mark traditional boundaries.

“It’s amazing to see indigenous groups from all over the world coming here armed with hundreds of detailed maps they have created with things like handheld GPS devices and Internet mapping apps,” said Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, head of the Philippines-based Tebtebba, one of the co-organizers of the Global Conference on Community Participatory Mapping on Indigenous Peoples’ Territories, which took place on the edge of the largest volcanic lake in the world. “It’s a new and vivid way to illustrate how they and their ancestors have inhabited and worked these lands for thousands of years and have every right to assert their ownership.”

Indigenous groups from countries including Malaysia, Nepal, Panama, Mexico and Brazil, explained how they have adopted affordable, high-tech mapping technology to retrace the history of their land ownership and catalog their natural resources. Their hope is that detailed maps can help them fight the destruction of vast tracks of forests, peatlands and waterways—brazen incursions by government and industry that not only deprive indigenous peoples of their lands but also greatly accelerate the global loss of biodiversity and accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

For example, participants at the conference believe maps of this sort could help bolster the fight in Indonesia to stop the steady loss of traditional lands to palm oil production, logging and other industrial needs. Participants issued a declaration calling on the government of Indonesia to pass legislation, currently under consideration by the nation’s Parliament, which would provide new protections for the country’s 50 million indigenous peoples.

Read more at: Phys.org

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