By Lilian Pintea The Global Forest Watch (GFW) platform presents a unique opportunity to strengthen the work of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in protecting chimpanzees and their habitats in Africa. In this blog I would like to share how JGI and partners are building capacity to eventually use Global Forest Watch in combination with mobile technologies to improve forest monitoring in Uganda. 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 georeferenced 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.
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. For example, the figure above shows that according to the University of Maryland tree cover loss data set, more than 7,000 hectares of forests have been lost in this corridor area between 2000 and 2012. 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 could be validated by the private forest associations, providing field data back to remote sensing scientists that will improve their deforestation detection models. With some deforestation alerts, such as FORMA, updated as frequently as every 16 days, forest owners in Uganda will be 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.