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A Community-based Map of Mursiland

This map was made over a two year period by asking Mursi what features of their territory it was important to map. Being pastoralists, their first concern was with resources used by cattle, particularly saltlicks and hot springs from which cattle as well as wildlife obtain essential mineral nutrients. They also wanted to map their villages and cultivation sites. A Mursi was given GPS training to enable him to assist with the map making. When a base map of Mursi land use had been completed, this was filled in with other important features. The symbols on the map were drawn by a Mursi so that other Mursi would have an easier time identifying the map features. Many Mursi who cannot read or write can read this map. They are helped in identifying such features as grasslands and rivers by the high quality of the satellite images. A version of the map has also been made in the Mursi language using the syllabic script of Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia. The Mursi have been impressed by the way the map gives them the ability to talk about their land. They often spread it out on a cowskin to discuss its various features and never seem to tire of looking at it. The map has been endorsed by many community leaders, some of whom are using it to plan the Mursi Community Conservation Area. This is a combined conservation and tourism management project, designed to provide revenue for the Mursi community in response to the loss of grazing and water resources over the past half century, due partly to climate change and partly to the encroachment of national parks on their territory.

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