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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 2.124

Participatory mapping for local knowledge production in Turkana County, Kenya


  • Gregory AKALL

Primary authors

  • Gregory AKALL (Department of Geography, University of Cambridge)


Turkana has had a long history of development and a string of failed interventions, including fisheries, irrigated agriculture, water harvesting and restocking. The historical causes of these failed developments remain poorly understood. However, some scholarly contention exists over the disappointing outcomes, which were suggested as externally imposed, top-down, non-participatory, bureaucratic, techno-centric, costly and problematic during the 20thand 21stcenturies. The 2030 agenda calls for increase local participation and knowledge in planning processes.This trend was marked by the use of high-end technologies, including geographic information systems (GIS). In this article, the author considers the methodology of using participatory GIS mapping to ensure local knowledge and participation in pastoral development planning initiatives. The article draws on my PhD fieldwork experiences in 2014-2015 on the Turkwel irrigation schemes at the lower Turkwel River basin in Turkana County, Kenya. GIS data and bottom-up participatory mapping for community inclusion in everyday practices of knowledge production, empowerment and planning processes were employed. A GPSmap 62 Garmin, was used to capture a spatial reconstruction (geo-reference) of irrigation schemes, water canals, grazing areas/corridors, water points, villages and the riverine forest invaded by Prosopis juliflora, in the area. This was complemented with sketch maps and schematic illustrations by local pastoralists. Utilising these methods enabled me to talk to agro-pastoralists, capturing their everyday social world and increased visibility of the hidden Turkwel riverine ecosystem. This article suggests that participatory rural appraisal (PRA) and GIS approaches have the potential to increase the involvement of locals in planning processes and policy outcomes.