Announcing a Major Investment from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

Today is World GIS Day, a celebration of how GIS technology is applied. We’re thrilled to celebrate this day with the public launch of our offline mapping tool Mapeo, thanks to a grant of $525,000 from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Read our full press release.

For the past four years, the Digital Democracy team has been working directly with indigenous communities in the Amazon to test and prototype tools for mapping and territorial monitoring. Over the past year, we’ve seen how our partners have used Mapeo to map hundreds of thousands of hectares of land and tell the stories of deep connection to their land through maps.

The need for new software came from our partners – indigenous communities – who find that existing software is unsuitable due to its complexity, online dependence or top-down management. The people we work with wanted something that would enable the whole community, including non-literate members, to understand how the mapping was being done, a system which they could edit and manage and which would produce maps in line with their values and cultures.

Mapeo builds off of OpenStreetMap’s easy-to-use iD Editor, which can be customized to create presets in any language, and symbology designed by the communities.

We have built Mapeo in close partnership with Amazon Frontlines and Alianza Ceibo, our partner organizations based in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Waorani, Kofan & Siekopai members of Alianza Ceibo have been testing Mapeo over the past year and a half, and are actively using the tool for territorial mapping.

Opi Nenquimo returning the final maps in Nemonpare

“With Mapeo we have, for the first time, a tool that we can use to make our own maps, and we can build a strong team of people who can train others to map,” said Opi Nenquimo, the Waorani project lead from Alianza Ceibo. “The mapping project has united many villages to defend and manage their lands together. And it is a process which is leaving a legacy for the future, both the maps and the skills, that our people can use to fight for our livelihoods and our rights.”

A test version of Mapeo desktop is available for download here. We are currently in the design phase for Mapeo Mobile, an app for mapping and monitoring that will allow groups to collaborate on collecting information about the world around them and share it with each other, or wider audiences.

For more on the mapping process, read our blog post from March about how the Waorani people are using Mapeo in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

If you are interested in the technical workings of Mapeo, read this blog post, and visit our GitHub page, where you can follow along and jump into the issues and help us continue to improve Mapeo.