Making maps for people who can't read

Posted on 05 August 2004
Yigei Lake, Hunstein Range Wildlife Management Area, Papua New Guinea.
© WWF-South Pacific
East Sepik, Papua New Guinea - A WWF-supported workshop in the remote Sepik River Basin has created what is believed to be Papua New Guinea's first pictorial management plan for a protected area.

Located in north-western Papua New Guinea, the Hunsetin Range Wildlife Management Area (WMA) was declared by local landowners in 1998 to protect the area's wildlife and environment from logging.

Many people in the Gahom, Wagi and Yigie communities living in the WMA are illiterate, making it difficult to capture their knowledge and to create work plans for management of the area.

"To overcome this, we spoke to landowners and got them to draw their thoughts on the ground," says Leo Sunari, Sustainable Resource Use Trainer in the Papua New Guinea office of WWF-South Pacific. "We transferred these drawings onto maps, complete with a set of keys indicating the features and issues to be addressed."
Participants in the workshop drew a common boundary map which showed traditional boundaries for their land within the Hunstein Range WMA. They used flowers and stones to identify valuable species and resources, places of cultural importance, threatened areas and future concerns, and protection and landuse zones based on traditional land zonation. As well as paper maps, these "earth" maps will also be used to develop posters for the communities. 
The participants also developed a vision statement for Hunstein Range WMA, which included a schedule for protecting important places and addressing possible threats. 

The Hunstein Range WMA is part of the Sepik River Basin, which covers some 1 million hectares and includes channels and tributaries of the river, back lakes, freshwater wetlands, forested hills, and the Hunstein Range. 

Deforestation as a result of commercial agriculture and industrial logging is a significant threat to the region, which is recognised as one of the most important areas of forest and wetland biodiversity in the Pacific. The river basin forms part of the New Guinea Rivers and Streams Ecoregion — one of WWF's Global 200 ecoregions, a science-based global ranking of the world's most biologically outstanding habitats and the regions on which WWF concentrates its efforts. 

The area is also home to a rich mix of cultures and ethnic groups. The Sepik River Basin is perhaps the most linguistically diverse area in the world with nearly 300 languages.

WWF's Sepik Community Landcare project has been working in the area for the past three years. The mapping project was supported by WWF and the UK Department for International Development. 
For further information: 
Leo Sunari 
Sustainable Resource Use Trainer, Papua New Guinea office, WWF-South Pacific
Yigei Lake, Hunstein Range Wildlife Management Area, Papua New Guinea.
© WWF-South Pacific Enlarge