Abstract Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are often seen as incompatible with participatory processes. However, since the late 1990s, attempts have been made in numerous projects around the world to define “best practices” for improved natural resource management projects that integrate participation and accurate spatial information, using GIS (for example, see www.iapad.org/participatory_gis.htm). This article describes a project in the Peruvian Andes where spatial information played a key role. Can GIS help narrow the gap between professionals and farmers or local officials? Or is it really a top-down tool that requires too much expert knowledge; and are investments too great for remote rural areas? Examples of successful use of GIS are provided in this article, while practical complications and methodological constraints are highlighted.