How are Indigenous Communities Benefiting from GPS Data Loggers?

How are Indigenous Communities Benefiting from GPS Data Loggers?

What are GPS data loggers and how do they work?

A GPS data logger is an electronic device that records data over time or in relation to location. Generally they are small, battery powered, portable, and equipped with a microprocessor, internal memory for data storage and sensors.

One of the primary benefits of using data loggers is their ability to automatically collect data on a 24-hour basis. Upon activation, data loggers can measure and record information for the duration of the monitoring period. This allows for a comprehensive, accurate picture of the environmental conditions being monitored, such as distance or air temperature. These devices are capable of storing a large number of log entries. The advantage of data loggers is that they can operate independently of a computer, unlike many other types of data acquisition devices.

Why is FPP using them?

FPP’s introduction of GPS data loggers has had a positive impact on indigenous communities by enabling them to map their own lands.  Unlike consumer grade, off-the-shelf GPS units, the data loggers are extremely simple, light-weight devices comprising a single button operation and no screens to navigate. This dramatically reduces the amount of training required and ensures that, after a short period of practical experience, the user will become quickly “qualified” to train others in field data collection, thus widening the pool of potential data collectors within the community.

The new methodology was first rolled out in February with the Dayak community of Kenabak Hulu in West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, Indonesia. After 30 minutes’ practical training and a demonstration, the village headman handed out six data loggers and assigned mapping tasks to the villagers.  Two community members with motorbikes embarked on the task of mapping village boundaries via the road, two other individuals mapped village rubber and crop plantations, while a group made up of women and children embraced the challenge of mapping the school and its grounds.  All mapping teams returned within two hours and were intrigued to see their data quickly downloaded from their dataloggers and displayed against satellite imagery in GoogleEarth.

“Everyone seemed keen,” said FPP’s Mapping & GIS Coordinator, Chris Phillips. “The tech we offered was gratifyingly simple and after the practical demonstration, they grasped the concept straight away. This was gratifying for me because that was my reasoning behind introducing the data loggers.” Chris explained that the training was quick and effective, requiring minimum effort. He added that people seemed to enjoy it and liked seeing the fruits of their labours displayed on a map.

Positive long-term effects

LinkAR Borneo has helped the communities in the Seberuang, Sejiram and Sintang areas to make a wide range of maps of community lands and they are mobilising communities to demand a stop to the palm oil land grabs (some have sent letters to the local government). There has also been mapping progress using data loggers in Kenabak Hulu (with WALHI/Niko) and there are plans for FPP to revisit the communities there to keep up the momentum.

Mapping provides something tangible any member of the community can really get stuck into, erecting virtual fence lines, if you will, and reinforcing their sense of place,” says Chris. “I’ve seen it before in other situations. There’s nothing like being able to point at a map and saying “This is us! We live here!