"Mind Mapping" with Rural Communities to State the Potential of Natural Resources

by Boubacar Macalou,  Mali (ELP 2016)

From 1993 to 2002, I worked for the Natural Resources Management Project (PGRN), based in Bamako, the capital city of the Republic of Mali, a West African sub-Saharan country. The project was supported by the World Bank with a loan of US$20.4 million, the Government of Norway for US$5.0 million, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for US$1.5 million, the Government of Germany for US$1.2 million and the targeted communities for US$4.0 million.

I was recruited by the Project in January of 1993 as a Training Expert before being appointed as the Senior Training Expert two years later. In both positions, I was in charge, among others, of the training of the field teams’ members at the regional level as well as the training of extension agents based at the community level.

One of the early training sessions I completed was related to the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) approach. It consists in using visual and participatory tools with even local materials on the ground or on charts; depending on the related easiness rural communities’ representatives have to work on with. The process and the related tools have been used for diagnostics to identify constraints and opportunities to the local development; as well as for the planning, monitoring and evaluation processes of all of the activities which have been completed at the community level with their full participation under the supervision of the Project staff.

During the numerous exercises I have conducted in rural areas, as working for A Natural Resources Management Project, we always stated the existing Natural resources before getting a consensus on a management plan for the whole natural resources through a participatory zoning. It was a very exciting task which has been completed both with young people and adults or seniors.

Even though we have reached globally the same outputs, in many cases, the process revealed a very interesting difference between the result from young people’s exercise and the one conducted with the seniors/adults. In fact whereas the map of Resources produced by young people stated generally the Natural Resources of the village watershed, as it can be observed at the field level at the same time, the outputs from the seniors/adults’ processes provided additional information. This second map has very often given details on Natural Resources evolving over years and decades inside or/and around the whole area under the control of the village authority.

The most important lesson learnt is as follows: To catch the evolution of Natural Resources over a given space in a given timeframe, it’s better to work on with seniors/adults people. However, if someone just want to state the existing potential of Natural Resources in the same space, the statement process could be conducted with juniors, as well as, it’s generally easier to meet with them, on the one hand, and these stakeholders are more frequently in contact with the Natural resources as they are always working on the farms or doing other activities related to the same resources.