October 6, 2007

Using sat-nav to save the rainforest

Filed under: Environment — Tags: , , — ubikcan @ 8:20 am

The BBC reports on using the latest satellite navigation and GPS tools in the Congo, where:

The Mbendjele people of Congo-Brazzaville are using the latest satellite mapping technology to stake claim to a rainforest, two-thirds of which may be gone in 50 years….

To understand how distinctive operations are in this corner of Congo, I head out to the village of Ibamba, a small settlement of Mbendjele Pygmies.

Such traditional forest people are almost invariably ignored by logging companies. The key challenge, I’m told by CIB, is communication.

Semi-nomadic communities head into the forest for four or five months at a time. They are difficult to track down and many do not read or write.

I sit with one of the Mbendjele men, Jean Fongola, outside a domed leaf hut.

In something of a contrast to our surroundings, the conversation revolves around the intricacies of hand-held satellite technology.

The Mbendjele take such devices into the forest to create maps showing places of community importance.

A specially designed touch-screen shows several images.

For example, there is one for hunting, another for a cemetery, and another for a sacred tree. When these icons are pressed, the handheld device makes a note of the satellite co-ordinates.

The women of the village take obvious pride in pointing out these features on their newly printed maps.

They don’t need the maps themselves of course, but for the first time they have a record of how they use the land that can help them discuss their land rights with companies and the government.

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