Platforms and terraces : bridging participation and GIS in joint-learning for watershed management with the Ifugaos of the Philippines

R.M. Gonzalez

    Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


    <p>Complex multi-actor problem situations in natural resource management (NRM) need the convergence of different knowledge processes, first of all, in understanding and agreeing what the problem is before aspiring for joint-action. This is a joint-learning approach in NRM. Geographic information systems (GIS), with their integrative, analytic, and visualization capabilities, offer promising means to facilitate this approach. However, using GIS relies heavily on specialists that develop and interact with the system, and thus, precludes participation of others NRM actors having no computer skills. Such a limitation can promote dependence on externally-planned intervention and is not desirable. In this research, I explored the use of participatory methods in designing a GIS for facilitating multi-actor learning about their problematic situation in NRM at the local level and communicating the same at the provincial level. This is to reinforce collective effort in understanding, negotiating, and active social construction of natural resources to be jointly managed.</p><p>Joint-learning started when Ifugao farmers and I engaged in tracing back NRM history of the study area which is located in the Northern Philippine uplands of Ifugao. This was done in order to learn about the traditional spatial information system that was used to successfully manage their terraced ecosystem that dates back to more than 2,000 years. By reading historical documentation, interviewing the elderly, and visualizing their NRM territories from their oral descriptions, I was able to establish the old Ifugao society's divisions of spatial responsibility that were parts of independent "water districts." Through spatial dialogue, local farmers participated in interpreting aerial photographs and satellite images, and in designing a prototype GIS which is patterned after their successful <em>baddang</em> (workgroup) in these water districts. By joining local NRM planning activities, I was able to identify potential NRM processes that can be reinforced by GIS, such as monitoring the status of their forests and terraces, and systematizing their trial-and-error reforestation efforts. By demonstrating GIS capabilities in supporting these activities ( <em>e.g.,</em> site selection, data aggregation, map generation), and the roles that local and provincial level NRM actors can play in each ( <em>e.g.,</em> jointly monitoring conditions, analyzing mapped data, formulating plans and policies), we developed a scheme for inter-actor communication process that can help gather support, identify possibilities and define responsibilities in co-managing their delicate landscape.</p><p>This research was able to identify a room for local participation in such an expert-dependent tool as GIS. It also demonstrated the inter-dependence of different expertise from different disciplines to come together in developing a GIS that can be effective in promoting a multi-actor NRM. Moreover, it showed a different side of GIS from mapping and data management to joint construction of the 'world' to be managed. This is important to extend our understanding of the complex world through exchange of alternative perspectives for common knowledge and wisdom to evolve and hopefully, promote concerted action for a more sustainable NRM. Interesting topics for future research also emerged from this study. The foremost of which is whether expertise and secondary information is enough to design effective practice; or whether interactive technology design promotes better practice.</p>
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Röling, N.G., Promotor
    • Beek, K.J., Promotor, External person
    • MacCall, M.K., Promotor, External person
    Award date7 Jun 2000
    Place of PublicationEnschede
    Print ISBNs9789058082466
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


    • geographical information systems
    • watershed management
    • natural resources
    • management
    • terracing
    • indigenous knowledge
    • agriculture
    • terraces
    • philippines

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