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GIS in Participatory Research: Assessing the Impact of Landmines on Communities in North-west Cambodia

Citation: Williams, Craig and Christine E. Dunn. “GIS in Participatory Research: Assessing the Impact of Landmines on Communities in North-west Cambodia.” Transactions in GIS, 2003, 7(3): 393-410.


The view of GIS, adopted by many, as an undemocratic and divisive technology is perhaps most poignant in settings where financial and skills-based resources are limited, notably in lower-income countries. Where those countries are also recovering from a period of military conflict there would at first sight seem to be little opportunity for employing GIS as part of a socially-sensitive approach to ‘development’. This paper explores the potential for using GIS in participatory approaches to gathering and analyzing geographical information on human-environment interactions in post-conflict settings. We discuss empirical work from northwest Cambodia where GIS and participatory methods have been integrated to assess risk to local communities from landmines and to develop priorities for landmine clearance. In juxtaposing ‘official’, spatially-referenced data with indigenous geographical knowledge in this study we seek to privilege meaningful geographical understandings over conventional notions of spatial ‘accuracy’. In so doing we carry out a Participatory Mine Impact Assessment (PMIA) to explore spatial activities among local populations in mine-contaminated communities and to help identify improved strategies for returning refugees in re-establishing livelihoods.


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