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Understanding local variability in context and mobilising local participation to define development agendas are widely accepted development strategies. There remain, however, significant challenges to the systematic and effective inclusion of local communities and households. Projeto MAPLAN, a pilot project in Cear, Brazil, is a joint effort of the public sector and civil society designed to create a process of participatory development planning which integrates local-level contextual variations. In this effort, the use of a Participatory Geographic Information System (PGIS) stimulates the participation of community members in analysing their needs, goals, and priorities. The visualisation of these factors through easily understood maps facilitates communication and contributes to a democratic and transparent planning process, thus permitting the articulation of local priorities with the state-level planning apparatus. MAPLAN represents part of a shifting paradigm for rural development planning in the state and provides the tools for the effective inclusion of citizen voice in development policy.

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