By Colton Naval and Jessica Webb

Global Forest Watch (GFW) is excited to announce the 2019 Tech Fellows and Small Grants Fund recipients. Both these programs provide funding to individuals and organizations using GFW tools to monitor and protect forests. The Tech Fellowship gives individuals the technical skills to implement a forest monitoring project and share their knowledge with others in their community, while the Small Grants Fund supports the operations of local organizations across the world using GFW data in their forest management work. The GFW team reviewed hundreds of inspiring applications from organizations and individuals across the globe. With the Small Grants Fund entering its fifth year, and the Tech Fellowship its second, we have selected four fellows and twelve projects that we believe are best placed to turn local action into global impact.

2019 Tech Fellows

This year’s Tech Fellowship is centered around forest monitoring in near-real-time, using the fires and deforestation alerts provided on GFW. The four fellows were selected based on their innovative use of GFW’s rapid response data, the strength of their networks and their strategies for sharing knowledge with those networks:

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Abigail Frimpong

Abigail is a graduate of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Her eight years of professional experience span projects on biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and adaptation, improving rural economies, gender-mainstreaming and behavioral change advocacy. Her Tech Fellowship project will further equip her to support Community Resource Management Area (CREMA) communities in the Western Region of Ghana to improve their forest monitoring and sustainable natural resource management efforts.  

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Esaie Dufitimana

Esaie Dufitimana is spatial data analyst and project officer with expertise in GIS and Remote Sensing. He is currently working with Green Cover Initiative Rwanda as their Environmentalist and GIS professional. His Tech Fellowship project will use GFW tools to monitor the drivers of deforestation in the Congo Nile ridge region of Rwanda, with a specific focus on Nyungwe National Park and Gishwati-Mukura National Park.

Leonard Akwany

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Leonard Akwany is the Regional Wetlands Expert at Nile Basin Initiative, working on conservation of Nile Basin landscape wetlands, peatlands and other water-related ecosystems. Leonard is a native of Lake Victoria, Kenya and his childhood interactions with the lake and its associated ecosystems served as inspiration for his career. During the Tech Fellowship, he will use GFW tools to assess the Nile Basin transboundary forest landscapes and enable citizen-science based monitoring by indigenous communities. Leonard holds a B.Sc. in Natural Resources Management from Egerton University, Kenya and M.Sc. in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from University of Manchester, England.

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Madeleine Ngeunga

Madeleine is a Cameroonian data journalist specializing in human rights and the environment. She has won the Forest Media Award for outstanding reporting on mining and forest governance twice, and was amongst the 25 Francophone African leaders selected for the Open Data Medias project, where she used data skills to investigate environmental issues in the Congo Basin. Madeleine was born in Yaoundé, went to university in Douala and studied Human Rights Education in Montreal. She is a correspondent for InfoCongo and runs her own blog. Her Tech Fellowship project will focus on raising awareness of tree cover loss in Cameroon through storytelling and data visualizations, as well as training other media professionals and indigenous communities to use GFW tools for better
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2019 Small Grants Fund Recipients

The 2019 small grants fund recipients are a diverse group of organizations that work in all areas of forest management. Their projects span from engaging communities to protecting endangered species to improving strategies for forest monitoring:

Strengthening forest monitoring in indigenous lands

Evidence shows that deforestation rates in some countries are two to three times lower in forests managed by Indigenous Peoples, so bringing forest monitoring technology to Indigenous groups can be a powerful means for combatting deforestation. Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) will train Amazon Conservation Rangers in the use of GFW tools across three indigenous communities in Suriname, where mining and overharvesting of lumber are major forest threats. In Nicaragua, PANA PANA will strengthen the capacity of over 84 indigenous communities to use GFW for forest monitoring in the municipality of Waspam Rio Coco. And Rainforest Foundation US will continue supporting 36 communities and multiple law enforcement agencies to combat illegal deforestation in Northern Peru.

Using data transparency to promote accountability in protected areas

Other grantees will focus their efforts on curbing illegal deforestation within protected areas. SAILD will work in the Deng Deng National Park in Cameroon, training local communities and journalists on the use of Forest Watcher and GLAD deforestation alerts to report the impacts of development projects in and around the park. A project by the Red Panda Network will develop a community-based wildlife management system to protect red panda forested habitats in Nepal.

Red Panda Network works to protect this endangered species. Photo by Red Panda Network.

In Indonesia, Publish What You Pay Indonesia seeks to train communities to use GFW data to demonstrate the impact of mining activity within protected forests to the relevant government authorities. HAkA, also in Indonesia, will train civil society groups and forest management units in the Aceh province to use GFW tools and data to respond rapidly to forest threats. Amazónicos por la Amazonía (AMPA) will continue working with the Voluntary Communal Conservation Network and local authorities to implement a surveillance system for conservation areas in of San Martin, Peru.

Developing innovative approaches for forest monitoring

Several Small Grants Fund recipients are taking advantage of the open source nature of GFW tools and data to adapt the technology to local contexts. The Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) currently uses GLAD deforestation alerts in their Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), and they plan to expand MAAP to additional countries. World Wildlife Fund-Paraguay will work closely with authorities to customize GFW’s Places to Watch as a decision-support tool for prioritizing deforestation cases in sensitive biodiversity areas. The Center for People and Forests in Indonesia will develop a citizen science monitoring system based on Forest Watcher and VIIRS active fire alerts. And finally, in Mexico, Pronatura Península de Yucatán A.C  will incorporate GLAD alerts into their Maya Forest Watch platform and use that information to train local monitors on detection and verification of deforestation and wildfires in priority areas of the reserve.

The Fellows and grant recipients will be completing their projects over the course of the next year, finishing in May of 2020. Visit our grants and fellowships page for more details about these programs and for information on applications for next year’s cycle.


BANNER PHOTO: The effects of mining near forest communities. Photo by Publish What You Pay Indonesia.