The Rainforest Foundation UK is currently collaborating with local partners in three African countries – Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana – as well as in the Peruvian Amazon to implement innovative real-time monitoring (RTM) projects in cooperation with local rainforest communities. By engaging communities in the fight to tackle illegal logging, these projects seek to strengthen local communities’ involvement in forest management using our innovative ForestLink system.
Initially developed and tested in Cameroon within RFUK’s Mapping for Rights project in 2015, the system will be scaled up, aiming for the integration of community-based forest monitoring into official control procedures.
“ForestLink provides communities and civil society with new tools to monitor change in forest use and in their environment, to inform decision-makers in real-time so they can take action, and to contribute to the fight against illegal logging,” said Rodrigue Nzongo of FODER, RFUK’s long-time partner in Cameroon.
Based on RFUK’s extensive experience in community mapping and capacity building, our work in both Africa and South America will trial our ForestLink system, which allows for the collecting and uploading of data in real time to report illegal logging and other activities that might threaten traditional livelihoods. ForestLink offers an online platform accessible to different stakeholders that allows forest communities to detect and report illegal forest activities using a cost-effective open-source mobile technology developed exclusively by RFUK.
Through the adoption of innovative real-time forest monitoring systems, our aim is not only to reduce illegalities in targeted areas and improve benefits from logging activities for local communities, but also to empower these communities by facilitating their meaningful representation in decision-making processes. This approach enables local communities to better claim and defend their rights. In order to capitalise on other ongoing initiatives the project also includes a lesson sharing component through the development of an international 'community’ which can discuss best practices in community-based monitoring.
RTM in Africa
In Africa, the 30-month project is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and will support the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. The project will be implemented in partnership with Forêts et Développement Rural (FODER) in Cameroon; Group d’Action pour Sauver l’Homme et son Environment (GASHE) in DRC; and Friends of the Earth (FoE-Gh) in Ghana.
Our RTM projects in Africa will test the integration of the monitoring system into existing forest law enforcement, as a means of stopping illegal logging and contributing to the implementation of FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs), and will also explore suitable incentives for communities to sustain their engagement and participation.
RTM in South America
Our RTM project in Peru is funded by the Rainforest Fund, the Waterloo Foundation and the general public to empower indigenous peoples to protect the Amazon rainforest. Here we are targeting one of the most biodiverse regions of the world, home to several indigenous groups, many living in voluntary isolation in the southern Peruvian Amazon. It is estimated that 80% of logging in Peru is illegal. In addition, the recent spread of illegal open-pit mining is wreaking havoc on forest communities, threatening their homes and their livelihoods.
Our work in Peru will build on the valuable experience of indigenous organisations in forest monitoring programmes. Working closely with these groups, we have introduced our real-time monitoring technology as a means of combatting the dual threat of illegal logging and mining. This will help close the communication gap between isolated rainforest areas and enforcement bodies, usually based in main cities.
Community Based Real-Time Forest Monitoring will generate data that influences key decisions on forests and related natural resources management, improve detection and reporting of forest infractions as and when they happen, and thus contribute to strengthening law enforcement and transparency.