Real-time forest monitoring: First joint verification takes place in DRC
January 24, 2017
The last two months have been a busy time for our real-time forest monitoring (RTM) project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Our local partners GASHE have been hard at work to scale up our RTM system, ForestLink, while providing on-the-ground support to the many communities taking part.
One of the most important aspects of the RTM project is the close collaboration between civil society, local communities and government. As such, an intensive workshop was held in Mbandaka, from 12-13 December, bringing together different stakeholders – including civil society organisations, indigenous and local leaders and government agencies – all united by a desire to learn more about ForestLink and combat illegal logging. Dozens of participants gathered for this informative event, including the provincial Minister of Environment.
“The success of this workshop, as well as the progress made through our community advocacy work, really demonstrates the importance of strengthening stakeholder relationships and improving communication between government, companies and local communities,” said GASHE’s RTM Coordinator Joseph Bolongo.
With all the stakeholders well-informed about the ForestLink system, the next step was to engage government forest inspectors in verifying local reports of illegal deforestation. For the very first time, a joint monitoring mission took place between GASHE and government forest inspectors. The aim of this mission was to verify real-time alerts sent by community observers, and to develop new strategies to better enforce laws against illegal logging.
In anticipation of this monitoring mission, GASHE provided advocacy training to local community leaders. This training helped local representatives to better understand their legal rights and showed them how to use the RTM data they collect in order to hold criminal behaviour to account, as well as to seek redress for any further destruction of the forests that they depend on for survival.
"The knowledge gained during this training will allow us to claim our rights peacefully,” reflected community leader Benkita Balongo.
Following their training, local communities had the tools they needed to meet with logging company representatives and to present evidence of illegal activities on their lands. Communities hope that these discussions will lead to an agreement that will protect their forests – which represent their homes and livelihoods – from further destruction.
As the RTM project progresses, more communities will receive advocacy training to help them defend their rights and their forests.