Our GIS Coordinator, Peter Foster, was in Ghana this month training our local partners at Friends of the Earth Ghana (FOE-Gh) on our real-time monitoring (RTM) technology, ForestLink. Our RTM project will build forest communities’ capacity to detect and report illegal forestry activities in real time with the use of an open-source mobile phone application and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
Our RTM project, which is currently underway in four countries (including Ghana) is being implemented in support of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) process, which aims to reduce illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber.
It is clear that successful implementation of Ghana’s action plan under FLEGT requires a credible “Legality Assurance System”. This is an area where well-coordinated civil society and community-led monitoring have much to contribute. To date, however, so-called ‘forest fringe’ communities have not been very involved in monitoring forest operations due to lack of capacity and knowledge.
By applying our RTM system to existing law enforcement initiatives, this project will explore incentives for communities to participate in reducing forest illegalities while also improving forest governance to their own benefit. The aim is to support forest communities in influencing decision-making, improving detection of forest infractions, and helping to identify risk areas quickly, thereby improving forest law enforcement, transparency and good practices.
To deploy the ForestLink system among participating communities, we recently trained FoE-Gh staff in Accra in the use of the technology – enabling them, in turn, to train community monitors in the field. Over four days, the training included an introduction to the system, its elements and functionalities, processes of capturing and transmitting alerts on illegal logging activities and rights violations, and GIS training for using and analysing collected data.
The FoE-Gh RTM project team is now confident the technology can be introduced to community monitors for them to start testing these new tools and to report witnessed illegalities. Stay tuned for more news from Ghana…