The ForestLink community real-time forest monitoring initiative aims to unlock the potential of traditional forest guardians in monitoring and protecting their forest lands.
Conventional approaches to monitoring and tackling illegal deforestation don’t always get to the root of the problem. Many independent observation programmes depend on costly and inefficient field missions by international and national NGOs. New advances in satellite forest monitoring have transformed our ability to detect forest loss but may not show us what is causing it and can be detached from local realities and law enforcement systems.
Our community forest monitoring initiative aims to change this by unlocking the potential of traditional forest guardians in monitoring and protecting their forest lands. At the heart of this is ForestLink – a breakthrough system that enables communities to transmit highly accurate and low cost geographical alerts on illegal forest activities in real-time – even in remote areas where there are no telecommunication networks.
How it works
Using a customisable app, trained community observers send alerts using specially compressed data on a range of different issues to a database via SMS, internet or a special satellite connection.
Depending on the institutional configuration of the project in country, local NGOs and/or government agencies analyse this information to detect illegal hotspots or trends, and to trigger targeted verification and law enforcement missions. The end-to-end system can support two-way communication such as transmitting geographical coordinates of forest disturbance picked up by satellites to community observers for ground-truthing.
ForestLink can also show patterns of non-enforcement – for example where lack of verification or enforcement from officials on community alerts may be evidence of collusion with illegal loggers. Making available data on this to different stakeholders can improve forest governance by going beyond narrow measures of legality and can be used to a tool to monitor implementation of agreements between timber producer and buyer countries.
Since it was launched in 2015, ForestLink has been used by communities across six countries: DRC, Cameroon, Congo, Ghana, Liberia and Peru. It can be adapted to monitor a range of issues including as illegal mining, agribusiness developments, supply chains and human rights abuses.
How it works
Monitoring & Collection
Community monitors use a smartphone app (Collectaur) to collect evidence of illegalities and to document their alerts using photos, videos or audio recordings.
Reporting & Database
The collected evidence is transmitted to a secure database using a portable satellite transmitter or via SMS or internet.
Once the transmitted alerts are received on the online platform (Monitaur), they are analysed and verified by partner organisations.
Details of the illegal activities are passed on to the appropriate authorities so they can take action, such as sanctioning illegal operators.
The data collected using ForestLink helps local CSOs carry out follow-up activities with local authorities in order to foster increased transparency and good governance.