Vanuatu Land Use Planning Office
Forming and Harmonizing local and national visions.
All too often national planning offices and communities have completely different goals for the future. In the end, what happens in a country depends on control over what happens on the land itself. Harmonize goals for what will or will not happen on the land itself and most of the other problems will sort themselves out.
In the Pacific island countries, land is the central issue. The frequent, hostile, land disputes underscore the divergence in community, provincial, and national goals. Resolving these beings with a mutual understanding of the land itself; the soils, trees, rivers, minerals, land slope, harbours, and distribution of people and their farms and gardens. This is where Geographic Information Systems come into the picture. Maps can be quickly understood by village people in remote island areas as well as by national political leaders. Maps present a tangible record that people can look at and form plans around. Modern computer geographic information systems (GIS) can present a huge amount of information on maps and can scale these smoothly from a tiny village to the whole nation.
Over the past decade, many countries in the region have built up geographic information systems. But not all of these are actively used to create land use plans that integrate local and national concerns.
The Vanuatu Land Use Planning Project, initiated by AusAid in late 1995, is an effort to:
The National Land Use Plan integrates a broad set of principles and guidelines for development of land resources, supported by information from Development Plan 4 (DP 4), the Vanuatu Natural Resources Inventory (VANRIS), the National Conservation Strategy, the National Tourism Management Plan, and data collected by line agencies and other groups such as census data, data relating to agriculture, forestry, geology and mines, rural water supply and cultural heritage. These agencies and groups are involved in the development of the national land use plan, and their endorsement is critical to successful implementation.
The project established the Vanuatu Land Use Planning Office (VLUPO), to carry out the tasks at national level, and to train staff and co-ordinate planning activities in the Provinces. At Provincial level, the project assists in developing Provincial Development Plans and natural resources management capabilities within the office of the Provincial Planner.
At the community level, the project assists villagers in the process of developing land use plans utilises a Community Area Resource Management Activity (CARMA) "Bridging the Gap." The project's overall strategy is to create land use plans that integrate between local, provincial and national levels and across all sectors.
The first step is to assemble a multi-sector team of extension agents as a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) in each province. The group is led by the Provincial Planner and includes extension officers from agriculture, forestry, livestock, fisheries, lands, rural business, health, education, water supply, public works, woman's affairs, youth council, and NGOs.
The National Land Use Planning team provides a 7 day training course that includes a variety of PRA type tools. During the course the participants develop ideas on the most important problems in the various villages in their province and gradually select specific village areas for the site of a CARMA activity. Once sites are selected, the team identifies the potential and suitability of land resources for development using information from VANRIS, local knowledge and other sources. This information is plotted onto a Mapinfo GIS.
The coloured maps are a useful focus tools for the TAG preliminary meeting with the villagers to identify major land use problems. Following the first meeting, the TAG team organises a CARMA program with the villagers to map the area and identify the problems and aspirations facing the villagers. The CARMA program will use TAG extension agents from forestry, agriculture, fisheries, health or whatever agency might be appropriate for that particular village's problems.
Once the problems are identified, the agents work with the villagers in finding solutions at three levels: community, provincial, national. What do the villagers need to do? What must the Province do? What are the National Government responsibilities? One example of this process was the need for a health clinic in one village. The integrated team approach resulted in the community building the building, the provincial government providing the furnishing, and the national government providing the medical staff and medicine.
The final land use action plan is produced as a revised map, showing what everyone has agreed on for the use of specific parcels of land and detailing responsibilities for the projects. The participating agencies have a data sharing agreement so the information can be used by the whole team and standardised to put into the VANRIS with its FoxPro interface. The project has simplified the Mapinfo menus so it is very easy for officials to make maps to support their part of the action program. Presently more than 30 agencies actively use and add to the VANRIS GIS.
The AusAid funded project is expected to directly assist in developing a CARMAP in one community in each Province. This will provide necessary training and experience for TAG members. Thereafter, the TAG will continue the process in other interested communities under the guidance of the VLUPO. The VLUPO will assist the TAG and interested communities in implement their plans through identifying sources of funding. As of November, 1997, 6 TAG training programs and 6 CARMA were completed in 4 Provinces. Four of the CARMA workshops were the first level - done with the supervision of the national staff. There have been 2 secondary workshops, done by local and provincial people trained in the TAG workshops. This demonstrates the training works and the trainees can conduct the CARMA locally.
The participating government agencies agree that the process is successful and will become more so as more people are trained in the process and the villagers themselves begin to understand how they can actively participate in the future. Observers note that Forestry Officers trained in group processes in the earlier workshop have used their training and talents to help other extension agents in the TAG training activities. The major concern of the participants is the question of how the process should be institutionalised when the current project terminates in 2000.
Adaptability of the project to other situations.
GIS databases are fairly common in the Pacific island countries. But access to them is not. The key to the Vanuatu project is common useage of the GIS by many different government agencies and application of the results as a form of communication for local and national planning schemes. Other governments, as in the Solomon Islands, have restricted access and usage of their GIS. As a result of government policy, the GIS is not used very often or very well. Any computer system that is not used and updated rapidly goes out of date.
Vanuatu Land Use Planning Office