After the initial three day hands-on training and a community forum, it was time to hit the field. As noted in the previous blog posts (here and here), the targeted communities were Chana and Handaraku in Tana River County.
We had very little knowledge of the area prior to going to the field, so we relied on our partners – Kenya Land Alliance and their community facilitators and land rights mobilizers – to lead the way. Because these community lands have never before been captured, we didn’t know what to expect. We anticipated the community lands to be large but we didn’t expect them to be quite as large. The territories of the two communities encompass villages, rivers, forests, marshlands, grazing areas or grasslands, catchment areas, and savannah.
In order to capture as many features as possible and to cover greater distances we divided ourselves into four groups, each group consisting of a Spatial Collective member (well, at least three out of four groups), one or two community facilitators and land rights mobilizers, and one or two community members. Two groups covered Chara community and two Handaraku. It soon became apparent that we are dealing with a difficult terrain. Tana River delta is traversed with streams and rivers (Tana River itself is the longest river in Kenya), marshes, bushes, impregnable forests, and dry areas. It has an astonishing array of flora and fauna – in just a couple of days we saw hypos, crocodiles, numerous primates, birds, insects, and even a leopard; we even saw lion and hyena tracks. The roads in the area are few and far in between so the teams often had to leave the vehicles and switch to motorcycles or walk; and let me tell you, walking in 38 and 39 Degrees Celsius is not fun.
Apart from a punctured tire and one of the team’s car stuck in the mud, most of field work went without any major incidences. During the exercise we collected approximately 150 points and more than two hundred kilometers of tracks. The points consisted of boundary points of the two communities, their amenities and natural resources, and other points with which the communities identified themselves with.
All in all, the field work was relatively successful. We collected around half of the points required to adequately capture the area (a generous estimate) in just two days, which for the areas this size is pretty good. Since this project revolved around testing some of the technologies – GPS, satellite imagery, BRCK etc. – for the purpose of community land mapping, and KLA staff training, we didn’t focus on capturing every single point, but mostly on lessons learnt.
The next blog will describe some of the lessons and questions put forth by the community members in regards to mapping community lands. More pictures from the field work can be found below.