Does participatory mapping increase conflicts? A randomized evaluation in the Bolivian Amazon

Victoria Reyes-García, Martí Orta-Martínez, Maximilien Gueze, Ana C. Luz, Jaime Paneque-Gálvez, Manuel J. Macía, Joan Pino

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33 Citations (Scopus)


© 2012 Elsevier Ltd Participatory mapping of indigenous lands and resources is increasingly seen as a precondition for securing legal recognition of indigenous land rights. But because participatory mapping might have unintended impacts on the functioning of rural communities, researchers have put a great effort in analyzing the effects of participatory mapping. In this article, we used a randomized evaluation to assess the effects of participatory mapping in conflicts with external actors and with neighbouring villages in the Tsimane’ indigenous territory, Bolivian Amazon. We randomly assigned villages to a treatment and a control group, conducted participatory mapping with villages in the treatment group, and evaluated the effects of mapping village resources on the number of reported conflicts with and attitudes towards a) external actors and b) indigenous peoples from other villages. The exercise allows us to assess the effect of participatory mapping on conflicts while controlling for the political context. Results from our study indicate that conducting participatory mapping in randomly selected villages did not produce any effect of real or statistical significance on either 1) the number of conflicts with outsiders entering Tsimane’ villages, 2) the number of conflicts with Tsimane’ from other villages, 3) negative attitudes or opinions of outsiders, or 4) negative attitudes or opinion of Tsimane’ from other villages. Our results suggest that some of the effects that have been attributed to participatory mapping are not the inevitable outcome of mapping per se; rather, they probably stem from other previous or ongoing processes that determine whether communities engage in mapping their lands and how they do so.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)650-658
JournalApplied Geography
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Bolivian Amazon
  • Counter mapping
  • Experimental research
  • Participatory GIS
  • Tsimane’ indigenous peoples


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