Natural resources: new tools
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CTA. 2006. Natural resources: new tools. Spore 121. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/48000
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore121.pdf
Few people can ignore the pace of change in the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs). But harnessing these new technologies so that people in the South can use them to manage their precious natural resources remains a considerable challenge. How can ICTs be used in natural resource management (NRM) by all stakeholders from governments and planning authorities to local communities without disenfranchising the people whose livelihoods depend on their sustainable conservation? That was the main question on the table when CTA held its annual Observatory on ICTs from 26-28 October 2005 in Wageningen. The event, which was jointly organised by CTA, Alterra (Wageningen University) and the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), drew experts from the three institutions, as well as some 20 overseas participants from a range of backgrounds, including government ministries, universities, research institutions, farmers associations and NGOs. Four areas were identified for special attention, all of them related to issues of land tenure and access: ICT use in the context of customary land tenure and cadastre development, pastoralist and rangeland issues, community-managed forest issues, and applications of participatory geographic information systems (PGIS). A shift in direction ICTs should be combined with traditional techniques in a people-centred approach. Participants agreed broadly on a range of issues concerning better NRM in ACP countries. They stressed the importance of formally registering customary land tenure systems, called for a change in the way modern surveyors operate with respect to land tenure issues and urged governments and local planning authorities to work more closely with communities. ICTs can help communities take greater control over their natural assets, make it easier to plan activities for community forestlands and add value to forest resources, the experts agreed. The imaging component of these tools can help communities, particularly indigenous peoples, to visualise NRM, and facilitate its monitoring and evaluation. The rules of the game While the gathering stressed the potential of ICTs in improving NRM, it also recognised the importance of documenting instances when these technologies have failed, so that mistakes can be avoided in the future. Indeed, the use of ICTs in NRM continues to pose significant challenges, and it is important to design the right tools and set the correct pace for different circumstances. Technical services should be included in any ICT package, and it is crucial to draw up clear guidelines on ownership and security of data. Local rules must be established to ensure that natural resources are fairly distributed, and to see that power is not concentrated into too few hands. An e-consultation carried out after the meeting identified a range of areas and potential NRM projects in which ICTs could be used.