A million forest monitors
Rachel Agnew from the Rainforest Foundation introduces a potential game-changer in forest monitoring systems.
Some of the companies responsible for palm oil-driven destruction in Asia are now expanding into Africa, apparently driven by the availability of cheap (or free) land, cheap labour, accommodating local governments and closer proximity to the important markets in Europe, including the UK.
The areas for new palm oil plantations have mostly been signed away by the state with little or no concern for the many tens of thousands of people already living there. Without exception, the start of the clearance of forest for large-scale palm oil plantations has been met with local resistance, including protests and legal action.
Adding to the problem of legal mass-clearance of forests is that of illegal clearance which can be notoriously difficult to identify, report and respond to.
Recently, the Rainforest Foundation UK launched ForestLink – a system that gives people the opportunity to send near-instantaneous, highly geographically accurate reports of illegal activities from anywhere in the world, even where there is no mobile, phone or internet connectivity.
Information is collected using a tablet computer or smartphone and then transmitted to an online map via a satellite in as little as 20 seconds, costing around the same as a standard text message. The live incident reports show where urgent action is required to prevent deforestation.
ForestLink is potentially a game-changer as it gives those living in the vicinity of new palm developments, and forest people even in the remotest areas, the opportunity to report land thefts, environmental destruction and other illegalities. Literally millions of ‘community forest monitors’ could be mobilised and instantly report illegal activity.
Rainforest Foundation UK is inviting governments of rainforest countries to work with them on a full-scale test of how community-based monitoring can be linked to formal enforcement mechanisms.
More information on the work of the Rainforest Foundation UK
Rainforest Foundation's palm oil guide, created in collaboration with Ethical Consumer