The new website MappingForRights.org provides accurate interactive maps showing the location of communities living in the forest, and how and where they are using forest resources.
It also includes the boundaries of strictly protected areas and "the agents of forest destruction, such as logging companies". The website, which is backed by a database of digital maps, builds on the results of many years work to map the existence of forest dwellers in the forests of the Congo Basin.
The website was developed with the support of Oil Internet which specialises in the planning and production of information-rich websites, intranets and extranets. The database technical development was undertaken by Faunalia, which specialises in providing open-source support and expertise to environmental and community-driven initiatives using geographical information systems.
Simon Counsell, director of the Rainforest Foundation, said: "It is now widely understood that helping indigenous peoples and other local communities to protect their land is one of the best and cheapest ways to conserve tropical rainforests.
"But the problem is that there are often no records even of where these communities are, or of which areas of forest they use or wish to protect."He said MappingForRights.org literally puts African forest communities on the map, and could "be an essential start in the process of securing legal protection for their land".