Community mapping is a powerful tool for local communities to define resource management plan and development priorities and identify community conservation and monitoring directions. The process of updating community maps involves the participation of its community members, including the indigenous tribes, in every step of the way. This activity allows them to determine the present land-use plan and direct the future of their lands.
Once updated, a community map is an important economic asset that is integrated into the local land use plan. It is an important guide for local planners in crafting their plans and in some cases, resolve resource-use conflict and tension (such as conflict over land use).
The inaccessibility of updated community maps remains a major challenge in the country. Outdated maps hamper land use planning that can potentially burden the livelihood of its community. In some cases, outdated maps can result in indigenous communities’ conflicting claims over their domain rights. These conflicts can sometimes turn violent and bloody that leave a long-lasting impact on the communities affected.
The case of the Obu Manuvu Tribe in Mindanao
The Indigenous Obu Manuvu (OM) community of Davao City owns over 13,000 hectares of ancestral forests at the foot of Mt. Apo, the Philippines' highest peak. In one of its barangays where several OM tribe members live, all maps available are outdated and some of the existing management plans, such as the Barangay Development Plan, are either mere a checklist of allowed development programs, or need to be assessed to match with the maps from the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO). There are also overlaps among tenurial instruments that often results in land conflicts among tribes. Encroachment, deforestation and continuing threats to biodiversity and wildlife are the potential triggers of conflict.
“We keep seeing an influx of outsiders in our areas and protecting our forest is just too hard because we don’t have a strong basis for our ownership. We watch them hunt and degrade our land,” Ms. Bae Nida A. Landim, the Vice Tribal Chieftain of the OM in Barangay Carmen, said in an interview.
Enhancing the ADSDPP of Obu Manuvu through eCommunity Mapping
GIZ-Philippines has a great diversity and richness of knowledge and experience in land tenure-related issues and in supporting the land rights of marginalized people. It currently implements the Responsible Land Governance in Mindanao (RLGM) Project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The project supports improvement of administration of public lands toward sustainability and conflict sensitivity.
In Davao Region, GIZ-Philippines worked with the Euro Generics International Philippines Foundation (EGIP) to implement a project that would enhance the Obu Manuvu’s Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP) for forest protection and rehabilitation and strengthen the sustainable livelihood of the tribe.
A milestone work of the project amid the pandemic was making digital solutions more accessible for local communities through the use of modern technologies. GIZ-Philippines and local partners worked to push for digital solutions for community profiling and conducted eCommunity Mapping activities - a conflict-sensitive approach for local land use planning during the pandemic.
In October of 2021, RLGM conducted training on data collection and aerial mapping for land management authorities and LGU partners. A valuable output of this activity was the digitized community map of Barangay Carmen. The updated digitized map helped clarify delineation among adjacent barangays and paved the way for the enhancement of Barangay Carmen’s Barangay Development Plan and its harmonization with the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP) of the Obu Manuvu Tribe. In addition, the aerial images showed forest hotspots and helped strengthen monitoring and foot patrolling of law enforcement authorities.
GIZ and commitment to provide digital solutions for rural communities
Community mapping at the community level can be a very empowering tool in securing land rights. Community-based maps present a collective expression by the community of their entitlements, and these experiences have been used successfully in many contexts to persuade decision makers of the legitimacy of local claims to land and natural resources.
Together with its partners, GIZ remains committed to make digital solutions available for marginalized communities. Community mapping initiatives will continue as an important development intervention of the GIZ to help secure access to land and natural resources, to facilitate the management of these resources and to support community advocacy on land-related issues. (RLGM/ Opalyn Agulay)