Paper 4D

No.2, Service Road
Domlur Layout
BANGALORE 560 071.


A User’s Note


The purposes of this note are :

a) To outline the methods of mapping & modelling, enabling you to try them for yourself.
b) To encourage you to adapt and develop them and invent new methods.
c) To tell you where you can find out more if you wish.


Maps and diagrams are an important part of any planning activity. Maps are especially important in rural development projects where planning, implementation, monitoring or evaluation are required when the subjects are land use, watersheds, afforestation, agricultural development, etc. Maps can be used to locate households, demographic details, health and nutrition status, wealth, education, and so on (socio-economic conditions). Village resource maps help in getting information about land use, land productivity, land holdings, water resources, etc. Rural people are natives of the area that we are talking about. They have been living and working in these areas, most times over several generations. They, therefore, have a greater understanding and knowledge about their village. We have found as you will find out too that villagers have a great ability to represent their surroundings accurately and diagrammatically – whether they are literate or `illiterate’. Not only do they have an ability, they also greatly enjoy this activity. When and if given an opportunity, they are able to highlight those items that are of importance and interest to them. Our most recent experiences have shown that the villagers produce much better maps while they are on their own – with just minimal briefing (often only a request to them to prepare a map of their village or watershed) and a supply of the requisite materials (chiefly Rangoli(1) powder or coloured chalk being sufficient). We have also found the mapping exercises to generate a great deal of participation from the villagers.


Through mapping :

a. ‘Outsiders’ are able to gain much more information about a particular location or situation in a village, or the village (or watershed) itself and its resources, than they would otherwise.

b. Outsiders also gain insights into the way in which rural people think, their priorities, and their reasons for wanting or not wanting, for doing or not doing certain things, and for pointing out what in the village is significant to them.

c. They are also to locate and pinpoint situations and details pertaining to each house such as population, presence or absence of any chronic diseases, family planning, number of children, educational status, wealth, land holdings, livestock, etc.

d. In the case of resource maps, villagers are able to indicate to outsiders details about land holdings and ownership patterns, land use productivity, physical features, land related problems and also indicate appropriate treatments.

e. Trends of both social aspects such as health, population, caste patterns, etc., and economic aspects such as different sources of livelihoods, land use, cropping patterns, vegetation {including forests} etc., are also obtainable through mapping exercises by drawing a series of maps. (Time series).

f. Through various mapping exercises either in series or in combination, it is possible to study various aspects of village life during the course of a single exercise by combining various topics of interest.

g. Finally maps, particularly participatory mapping on ground, form an excellent and very powerful tool for participatory assessment, planning and monitoring of rural development programmes especially at the micro level.


As mentioned earlier, there are two basic types of maps:

a) Village Layout map showing houses and village infrastructure.
b) Village Resource map showing the resources of the village such as land, soil types, forest, land use, productivity, irrigation, etc. These maps can be depicted in several ways as outlined below.

1) Mapping on Ground: This is simply done by drawing on the ground by hand with a stick, coloured chalk or by using rangoli powder.

The advantages with this type of mapping are :

a. It is visible to many people.
b. It is quick and easy.
c. It can generate a good deal of discussion and is highly participatory.
d. It can contain a lot of information on population, health, land use, soil types and productivity, treatment, historical evolution etc.
e. It can be altered or corrected easily. f. It can be developed further if required.
g. It can be expanded as usually the space (ground) is unlimited.
h. It is liked by most villagers particularly the older people and women (who are skilled in the art of applying Rangoli).

The ground map can be either be a plain one or it can be coloured with ‘rangoli’ or other coloured powders to indicate various subjects such as different features of the village layout itself (streets, houses, location of different castes, water taps, etc.), demographic details (household population, livestock, schoolgoing and non-schoolgoing children, family planning status, etc.), health and nutrition status, land use – dryland, irrigated land, forest land, grazing land, wasteland etc., – or physical features such as hillocks, nullas, etc.) and so on.

Mapping on the ground has the disadvantage that it cannot be carried away unless it is also copied on paper or photographed.

2) Mapping on Paper : has similar uses as mapping on the ground :
– it has an advantage over mapping on the ground in the sense that it is a record which can be carried away or left with the villagers as a document of their village, recorded at a particular point of time and what is more important – PRODUCED BY THEM.
– it is also participatory, (though not as much as in the case of mapping on the ground).
– another variation in mapping on paper has been the use of coloured paper, cut out in different shapes and stuck on a plain background.

This method was used to map the command area of an irrigation tank in Kolar District and was evolved by a farmer. It showed clearly and accurately the different plots, shapes and sizes according to layout, ownership and survey number – this tallied with the official map of the area and every farmer who was asked could identify his plot on the map!

The disadvantage about mapping on paper is:

a) Its limited size – which does not allow for greater detail, elaboration or extension.
b) As mentioned already it is not as participatory as mapping on the ground. This is chiefly because the limited size of the paper offers only a limited space for the people to surround it and participate.
c) It is also a little more difficult to correct, since pens leave a more permanent mark, unlike making patterns on the ground with coloured powders or chalk which can simply be wiped off as corrections occur.

Mapping on paper can be done with pencil or by using different coloured sketch pens. It is advisable to start the exercise with coloured pencils and use sketch pens in the later stages, after the details and features are finalised. This is mainly because while the sketch is still in the pencil stage it can be altered with somewhat greater ease. This is not possible once the drawings are inked in. Drawing on paper comes easily to younger people in the village particularly those who have had some formal education. The older people are awkward when it comes to using pen on paper. In fact they are uncomfortable and do not like it much. This ‘cultural’ difference between the older and younger generations is important to note; pens, paper and other stationery are luxury items for the older and poorer people in the village. Hence, it might be advisable protocol-wise to avoid giving villagers (many of whom may be barely subsisting) the impression of extravagance and wastage. This in itself would enhance participation greatly.

3) Modelling : This is an advancement over mapping in the sense that it is three dimensional and shows in greater detail the features of an area such as watershed, a tank and its command, or any other area.

It has been found to be more participatory even than mapping on ground or on paper and is a lot of fun for villagers and outsiders alike. Rangoli and other colours form an essential component of this method as also certain materials such as models of houses, people, culverts, bridges, electric lines, vehicles, etc. In our experience, people have been very innovative in the use of materials to make models : stones of different sizes to represent houses or other buildings (or sea shells, in the case of one coastal village), jointed sticks for handpumps and water taps, etc., etc. People are also fond of including details, eg. the exact number of electric poles in the village (with sticks) and the wires that connect then (using strings), the board with their village name located on the main highway, and so on. Modelling has been found to be very useful in land use planning, watershed planning, etc., where the problems, treatments and opportunities can be indicated on the model itself, jointly by the villagers and outsiders. In modelling the detail allows for focussed discussion that is easily understood by all. Models can be historical (what did the area look like 50 years ago) or futuristic (what will the area look like 20 years hence). Other variations of the theme are if we have one type of treatment for example planting eucalyptus what will it look like in 20 years time. In either case what will be the benefits/effects?

However, like mapping on the ground models too cannot be carried away and hence would either have to be photographed or copied on slides or paper. They also take more time as compared to plain mapping on the ground with rangoli.


As mentioned earlier the mapping exercise is useful in a variety of ways. Their participatory nature makes them an extremely useful tool in understanding the situation that exists in a village or a watershed and leading from here, to planning of development programmes for that village/watershed.

Evolving from plain pictorial representations of village resources and layouts, a lot of `hybridisations’ and extensions have taken place. Some of these are listed below. The list is by no means complete, nor have we reached the limit of what is possible. Much more can be added on in terms of the methodology, content, uses and applications. And you can try to do it. Some of these have been mentioned earlier but are mentioned once more for the sake of emphasis.

A. Village Social Mapping (Refer Annexure I)

This involves asking the villagers to make a map of the current/existing situation prevailing in the village. Starting with a layout of the village, one can then move on to marking out the following :

a) Caste distribution and location.
b) Population (No.of adults and children, male and female, different age groups etc.)
c) Health mapping : Locating houses with persons having chronic ailments,
malnourished children, family planning etc.
d) Socio Economic : Indicating distribution of landless or homeless families, small and marginal farmers, other occupations (rural artisans), local resource people, widows, etc. Wealth ranking of the village community could also be done this way.

In our experience, for an accurate village layout and household map to develop, where every single lane and house is plotted, it usually takes more than one draft drawing.

B. Village/Watershed Resource Mapping (Refer Annexure II) :

Here the villagers are asked to make a map of the village land/watershed. This could be added on to the map of the village layout (Social map). In this type of mapping, it is possible to represent the visible and invisible physical features of the village/watershed. Those would include vegetation (forests, trees), land use (cultivated, uncultivated waste, grazing land, forest land, irrigated land, land ownership patterns, land productivity, cropping patterns etc.)

In a recent exercise the farmers of a watershed did a ‘matrix ranking’(2) of different types of soil according to various criteria such as type of crop, drainage, yield/productivity, ease of management and land value and indicated on their map where these different type of soil occurred.

In the case of watershed planning, it has become customary for the different transect(3) groups to converge on the map/model of the watershed to represent their observations/ suggestions regarding indigenous technologies, problems, solutions and opportunities on the map/model in full view of each other and the whole village, thus generating a great deal of healthy discussion, leading to more accurate and refined planning.

This example indicates how various PRA exercises can be linked to one another (sequencing). It is also possible to combine methods in other ways. For example, combining the social map with the village resource map (‘A’ with ‘B’) would give a more comprehensive picture of the village in its totality. One could then begin to observe how various factors begin to interact such as the trends and the impact of populations on deforestation, land use, land fragmentation, migrations, etc., or the land ownership patterns in terms of various economic groups and the type of land they own eg., relationship between wealth and land productivity, etc.

An inventory of local technology is an important component to which appropriate new techniques can be added to arrive at a basket of choices from which the community chooses based on their needs, constraints and capabilities.


This involves obtaining representation of either the socio-economic situation of the village community or the village watershed resources (or both) over a period of time and relating the two to each other. This gives extremely interesting historic profiles which help us to know what the situation was like several years ago, how it evolved, the reasons/factors contributing to this evolution, etc.


This has been tried extremely successfully and is emerging as a very powerful means of participatory planning of rural development programmes. Here both villagers and ‘outsiders’/planners can sit together and discuss the village and its resources using the map as the focal point. Treatments can be marked on the map simultaneously. An advanced way of doing this exercise is to allow the villagers themselves to arrive at a development plan of which they then make a presentation to the outsiders/‘planners’. This would serve as the basis for discussion/negotiation. The plan however, should include the elements of equity and appropriate technology.


Variations of this theme are when items are brought by outsiders into the village for discussions. These include arial photographs or ordinary photographs (taken from a vantage point and giving a good view of the terrain and features), maps and plans of the area/villages. Farmers show a great ability to interpret these documents and discuss them, sometimes even pointing out gaps (for instance, one farmer in Nepal pointed out that the area photograph shown to him must have been an old one as it had only 18 houses in it, whereas the village had 20 houses, 2 houses having being constructed recently).




1. Have a fair idea about the terrain and the featurs of the area that is going to be modelled. It is good to start by taking a walk in the village and around it, before starting to map or model.

Don’t take it for granted that the model will appear on its own. The exercise needs to be facilitated.

2. Do spend time thinking about the exercise. (HOW are you going to go about it? WHERE are you going to locate it? WHO you wish to involve? WHAT are you going to depict? WHY do you need to do the exercise? etc.)

Don’t over do the planning part – you might end up doing only planning.

3. Brief the people well about the exercise and the purpose of it.

Don’t raise expectations in the people of what this exercise will lead to in terms of personal gain for them.

4. Do make the exercise into an event which everyone – the men and women (old and young), and the outsiders – enjoy. Allow children to participate (children can also be engaged to make their own map.)

Don’t be too strict or rigid in the development of the model regarding the place, alignment, materials used, colour scheme etc.; let the villagers decide.

5. Involve the villagers in the selection of the spot. Some criteria are :-
– it should be a flat place, with a good vantage view of the area being modelled. A fairly open or public place is likely to enhance the discussion and participation.

6. Have a fair sized model atleast about 5-6 sq.ft., in size so that various features can be depicted.
Don’t make the models too small.

7. Facilitate the exercise in such a way as to promote participation. Discuss the project with the villagers. Ask them to construct the models themselves — including details such as nullas, fields, vegetation, houses, temples, etc.

Don’t interrupt the flow of work once it gets going. Let the people argue amongst themselves and come to decisions regarding size, colour, shape, location, etc.

8. Watch how things are turning out and taking shape. If at the end certain things are left out ask the villagers – ‘What about this … or what about that” (4) .

9. As far as possible use locally available materials.
– Twigs of different species to show vegetation.
– Pebbles and stones (to show pavements, stone rivetments, nulla training or checkdams, degraded eroded patches, etc.)
– Sticks and twine (to show electric lines, transformers, hand pumps, etc. – Match boxes for houses.
– Grass to show crops.

Don’t over do the details, you may neglect the main features.
Don’t use sophisticated material.
Supplement these with items such as:
– Rangoli powder(5)
– Toys (men, women, carts, buildings, bridge, etc.)
– Coloured card (for houses).
– Bits of pipe and so on.

10. Do try to make alternate models 50 years ago, 20 years hence, models showing proposed treatment plan and so on — using the existing model as a base.

Don’t scrap the model. Keep them for as long as possible for discussions.