A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a tool for enabling mapping and spatial analysis to be performed for a variety of applications, including natural resource management and planning activities. This article explores some of the benefits and concerns of using GIS as a participatory tool. It draws on a case study in Nepal, where participatory GIS was used in the field of community forest management. It argues that although GIS has a somewhat justified poor reputation as a tool for participatory development, this is due to misuse of GIS. The case study shows that GIS can be an important tool for enhancing participatory processes, allowing quantitative and qualitative information to be combined, to provide resource management information that was both relevant to the communities' needs and detailed enough to determine sustainable use. It calls for a refocus of GIS, from the technology, to people.
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International Institute for Environment and Development