FOREST LOSS ALERT SYSTEM, COMMUNITY FOREST MONITORING AND THE GLOBAL FOREST WATCH PLATFORM (GFW)

GFW is a dynamic free online forest monitoring and alert system tool that empowers people everywhere to better manage forests. The system works by uniting satellite technology, open data, and crowd-sourcing and provides timely and reliable information about forests.

GFW follows an open data approach in putting decision-relevant information in the hands of governments, companies, NGOs, and the public. GFW is supported by a diverse partnership of organizations that contribute data, technical capabilities, funding, and expertise. The partnership is convened by the World Resources Institute.

GLOBAL FOREST WATCH PLATFORM IN UGANDA.

The Global Forest Watch platform presents a unique opportunity to strengthen the work of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in protecting chimpanzees and their habitats in Uganda and Africa at large by using the system in combination with mobile technologies to improve forest monitoring.

The Budongo and Bugoma Forest Reserves in western Uganda are home to an estimated 1,157 chimpanzees. However, loss of forest in the vital corridors between these reserves threatens the connectivity and the survival of chimpanzee populations. The key driver of deforestation is conversion of forest to farmland for subsistence and commercial agriculture by the local communities. Forests are also cut for commercial extraction of timber for export, and to produce charcoal for urban markets and firewood for local use. The discovery of significant reserves of oil and gas in the rift valley around Lake Albert has also increased the human pressures in the region.

The forests corridors are privately and communally owned. JGI, in collaboration with other local partners, have provided a variety of incentives to forest land-owners to encourage more sustainable management of their lands. These mechanisms include assistance with land-titling, enhancing agricultural productivity, reforestation, promoting alternative income-generating activities, as well as capacity-building in various aspects of forest management and governance.

JGI and local partners have supported the organization of more than 1,800 private forest owners into 15 associations with democratically elected executive committees; that are registered as a Community Based Organizations (CBO) and issued a Certificate of Registration under the Local Government Act of 1997. The purpose of the associations is to enhance the capacity of private forest owners to collectively manage their resources and negotiate for benefits, such as potential funding from REDD+ and other payments for ecosystem services type of projects.

In order to make informed decisions about forest and support ecosystem service payments, land owners need updated, cost-effective and practical solutions for monitoring their lands. Thus, JGI includes capacity-building on the adoption of the latest mobile and cloud based mapping technologies to support community forest monitoring activities. This includes the use of Android tablets and the Open Data Kit (ODK) app to easily collect geo referenced data and pictures in the field. Currently, the mobile data are stored, managed and visualized using a set of Google cloud and web mapping tools or exported for further analysis in Esri’s ArcGIS software by JGI staff.

Global Forest Watch platform shows deforestation data for private forest corridor. Now, using the Global Forest Watch platform, local stakeholders and forest associations can directly access information on how and where forests have been lost on their lands.

Timely deforestation data from GFW help support accountability and transparency among private forest association members. Ultimately, the goal is to connect GFW-powered deforestation alerts to conservation decision-making and efforts on the ground using Android tablets and ODK already deployed in the region.

Each of these deforestation alerts are validated by the private forest associations, providing field data back to remote sensing scientists that improves their deforestation detection models.

With some deforestation alerts, such as FORMA, updated as frequently as every 16 days and GLAD Alerts, updated on a weekly basis, forest owners in Uganda are able to move from simply documenting the forests already lost to taking action to stop illegal activities on the ground, slowing and preventing deforestation before it happens.

IN SUMMARY, HOW GFW OR SATELLITE ALERTS WORK.

1.       An area of forest is lost (by logging, disease, fire, etc.)

2.      A satellite takes a picture of the forest.

3.      A computer or mobile device scanning the picture finds the change in the forest pattern and labels it as a pixel of “loss”.

4.      You get an alert that new forest loss has been detected.

5.      Forest rangers, forest monitors or community leaders go and investigate the forest loss and information is disseminated to responsible bodies like National Forestry Authority to take action.

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