Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are valuable community navigating tools, which provide frameworks to document and store environmental data sustainably in relation to communities on the ground. GIS promote participatory natural resource management practices through community involvement in adaptation programmes as well as having a say in the whole process. Otherwise, GIS is not only for the communities, but by the communities as well, provided resources and costs are met.
GIS are paramount and significant in that they have the power to harness interdisciplinary research and combine bio-physical and socio-economic dimensions for a sustainable body of community knowledge and environmental best practices. Through GIS, climate data can be appropriately stored and managed so that it is readily available and accessible when needed for community development purposes. As such, there are quite a number of interlinked stakeholders who can also thrive on the use of GIS and information banks such as policy-planners, decision makers and local communities directly involved in the conservation.
The community mapping frameworks will also make it possible for local participants to generate, interpret and process context specific data stored in computers. Research has shown that successful natural resource management programmes which take into account the use of GIS, were the most popular and people oriented for community alignment and integration. As a result, these increased agricultural productivity, food availability and choices, as well as income levels for local communities, through sustainable engagement, knowledge sharing and inclusivity.
According to the USAID (200), GIS is a tool that combines ordinary statistics with geographic locations to create meaningful, clear and attractive maps that can be applied to developmental needs. This means that users of climate data will have knowledge of community landscapes such as physical features and socio-cultural frameworks which give the community its name or location. Therefore, researchers are called upon to participate in activities involving the use of GIS for sustainable human resources engagement and networking, as well as sustainable environmental management practices. As such, if used in a wide context and appropriately, GIS can bring the requisite ground-breaking impetus with the whole mark of a valuable tool.
Because GIS is context specific, information centred particularly on any regional perspective, spelling out its natural resources base, like rivers, mountains, minerals, wild-life, training institutions, agricultural production and opinion leaders, can become the foundation or the bedrock through which sustainable development can be built.
GIS also promotes and advocates for the sustainable use of Integrated Natural Resources Management (NRM) in research paradigms that will help to improve the community livelihoods, agricultural base, knowledge of new farming methods and resilience. By so doing, GIS can be described as a problem-solving strategy for natural resources management.
For this reason, GIS can be viewed as an important decision-making tool for national resources management. As such, GIS can be used to address challenges associated with information handling, packaging, and storage as well as processing.
GIS mapping systems are vital and can combine many layers of environmental data that can prove to be a milestone in offering knowledge for community landscapes and how they can be managed. Because GIS is a tool that can combine ordinary statistics with geographic locations in order to create meaningful, clear and attractive maps which can be applied in development needs, it becomes a tool of choice for sustainable community participation and knowledge for developing countries. This means that GIS can also work favourably with elements like visuals, communication services and knowledge development tools. Through GIS, and in participatory and interactive ways, specialists and scientists will be able to interact with local communities on the ground. For that reason, villagers can quickly grasp and relate to geographic representations of their local surroundings.
Central to the operations of GIS is the aspect of community mapping which empowers communities to make decisions and navigate their physical and social surroundings as well as situations that need urgent attention like drought or flood-prone areas, and infrastructural development as well as health services.
All in all, through GIS, communities can be empowered and share the use of interactive platforms for enhancing community participation and knowledge creation. These can create symbiotic working relationships which enhance the socio-cultural, socio-economic and natural resources management. Although communities can only participate effectively and have a say in management issues, the costs can always be a major hindrance.
Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org