ForestLink

Overview

Our community forest monitoring initiative unlocks the potential of forest guardians to protect their forests, connecting them with law enforcement agencies to improve detection and enforcement of illegal logging. At the heart of this is ForestLink, a breakthrough system that enables communities to transmit highly accurate and low-cost alerts of illegal forest activities from real-time, even in remote areas with no connectivity.

Local monitors send alerts of potential illegal logging near Bibindi, Cameroon | Credit: Élodie Barralon
Local monitors send alerts of potential illegal logging near Bibindi, Cameroon | Credit: Élodie Barralon

The issue

Illegal logging and mining cause a breakdown in forest habitats and community livelihoods. Conventional approaches to monitoring and tackling illegal deforestation don’t always get to the root of the problem. Forest authorities lack the means to supervise and control resource extraction while many independent forest monitoring programmes depend on costly and inefficient field missions by international or national NGOs. Advances in satellite observation have transformed our ability to detect forest loss but may not show us what is causing it.

By engaging communities in the fight to tackle illegal logging, this programme seeks to strengthen their involvement in forest management using our innovative ForestLink technology. In this way, real time data from communities with local knowledge has made forest monitoring a more ‘bottom up’ and transparent process, and forest authorities in project countries have praised its contribution to improving forest governance.

What we're doing

  • ForestLink has been deployed in DRC, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia and Peru where hundreds of community monitors are generating thousands of illegal deforestation alerts to enhance detection and enforcement of illegal forest destruction.
  • This system is reducing illegal logging and mining in the target areas, leading to seizures of illegal timber and equipment, landmark court cases, a better deal for communities from timber companies and territorial protection. 
  • The versatility of the system means it is also being used to monitor human rights violations, women's rights and wildlife crime and poaching.
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Our impacts

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400 community monitors trained

Nearly 400 community monitors in seven countries trained and using ForestLink to protect their forests.

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law enforcement & governance improved

Reduced rates of illegal deforestation in target areas and official recognition of community monitors in some countries.

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Thousands of ALERTS generated

Landmark convictions and court cases as well as seizures of illegal timber and mining equipment worth millions of USD.

"With the ForestLink system, I know that using just a mobile phone I can record an illegality anywhere in the forest. With this project I think the community will really see a change... We're not just doing it for ourselves, we're doing it for our children too."

Longine, community monitor, Cameroon

"We have never had anything like this technology in the community. You know that illegal mining is nearby, and we sometimes see miners along the river. RFUK's ForestLink system allows us to be safer. We can control our territory now and send alerts if anything happens."

Wilmer, community monitor, Peru

"I am quite satisfied with the project so far. Especially the training that has been given to our community monitors... I would like for us to be able to help ourselves, now that you have helped us start the process of standing up for our rights. And looking forward, we can start to restore the remaining rainforest for future generations."

Nestor, community leader, Cameroon

Featured publications

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Final Evaluation: Embedding Community Real Time Monitoring (RTM) to Sustain Livelihoods and Forests in West and Central Africa

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Real-time Forest Monitoring: Empowering Communities, Preventing Illegalities, Protecting Forests

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Community-based Real-time Monitoring in the Congo Basin and Amazon rainforests

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Real-time Community-based Forest Monitoring: Challenges and Opportunities