Acre event report: scaling-up the use and impact of community-based forest monitoring in Amazonia

11/06/2015

Introduction and objectives


GCP ran a workshop and seminar on “Scaling-up the use and impact of community-based forest monitoring in Amazonia” in Acre, Brazil, on the 22-24 April, 2015. This brought together a variety of community, civil society and government participants from Brazil, Peru, Guyana and UK to share their experiences of community-based forest monitoring (agenda and participant list).


The event was held as part of current efforts to promote the participation of local communities in comprehensive and robust forest monitoring systems, which are essential if we are to understand the effectiveness of conservation and climate mitigation efforts, including REDD+. Community-based Forest Monitoring (CBFM) can provide an effective way to collect relevant forest data and information, which should then feed into resource management and forest governance. It can also provide new opportunities for learning and employment, and can foster local ownership and participation in conservation activities. Information from communities also helps avoid the potential risks, and enhance the intended socio-environmental benefits of REDD+ and conservation initiatives. Recently, digital technologies are being used in participatory monitoring systems as tools to improve data collection and analysis.


Despite the benefits and positive impacts being demonstrated worldwide, there are still challenges in integrating participatory approaches into monitoring, in valuing this process, and using the resulting data sets. In light of this, this event aimed to:


  • Discuss the role of CBFM and information needs across different forest stakeholders
  • Share experiences and impacts of CBFM in the Amazon region
  • Understand the role of digital technology in CBFM initiatives
  • Discuss barriers and opportunities for the inclusion of CBFM models in wider monitoring systems

Acre event participants


WHAT: conceptualising community-based forest monitoring


Defining CBFM can be a challenge because of typologies and scales of participation (Danielsen et al 2009). The workshop used an initial “mind-map” exercise to gather different perspectives and reach a common understanding of CBFM and related themes (REDD+, CBD and FLEGT). Participants broadly agreed that there has to be a common community cause or issue at the heart of community-based monitoring. 


There needs to be a collective need or cause for it to be community-based monitoring” Michael Williams (NRDDB)


Participants also agreed that CBFM initiatives should strive to engage and build local capacity, so that forest residents define the key issues to be monitored, take part in data collection, analysis, and crucially, that the results be understood and used for the benefit of communities. 


“Previous models have focused on communities just being involved in data collection, and not really being involved in data analysis, in problem framing; many times the research question is not a question of interest to people, they collected data for scientists but they are not involved in analysis, they  not beneficiaries of the results of the research” Carolina Comandulli (ExCiteS)


WHY: the role of CBFM and the impact of differing information needs on efforts to scale it up


Participants discussed the importance of CBFM. Residents know their forests intimately, in effect monitoring forests throughout their daily lives. Their traditional knowledge and skills can be an important source of information, for example, on fish catch-size, animal behaviour, climate change and traditional farming practices. Information and data collected by forest communities can fill existing knowledge gaps, for example helping understand where and why forests are being degraded. Local monitors can track social and biodiversity indicators. The resulting information is necessary for effective management at the local level, and to develop comprehensive national systems for forest monitoring and REDD+ safeguards. Returning information to forest communities helps them as they face pressures and undergo changes in their environment. So CBFM can feed into both local and external decision-making on resource management and conservation efforts. It brings the additional benefits of increased participation, ownership, capacity building and employment.


Discussions throughout the event also highlighted challenges faced by CBFM, such as the risk that it exacerbates conflicts or puts local monitors at risk, especially if monitoring includes illegal activities such as illegal hunting and logging. Another important point was the need for strong collective will and organisational capacity for real benefits to be generated.



Antonio Oliveira on community monitoring field realities


Participants came from communities and external / governmental organisations, so representatives from each group shared their different perspectives through short presentations. They considered their different information needs and the policies emerging from global agreements and national developments. These presentations were as follows:


​Community representatives 

External/governmental 

Michael Williams (NRDDB)

Lucy Gooodman (GCP

George Cuñachi (AIDESEP)

Tathiana Souza (ICMBio)

Antônio Oliveira (AMOPRESEMA)

Marta Azevedo (IMC)

Enisson Piyãko (OPIRJ)

Jefferson Custódio (FUNAI)

Juan Arique (ECA)

Ruben Jacinto (MINAM)


Tathiana Souza on ICMBio monitoring


Group activities looked at the differing information needs of local communities and external organisations (government, facilitator, international policy and academia). The discussions identified overlapping interests and potential indicators. One reason for identifying these overlaps is that where communities and external actors have a shared interest in information, there is good potential for monitoring systems to be owned by communities and sponsored or supported by governments.



Community information needs - exercise


While it became clear that it is difficult to differentiate between local and external monitoring needs, because of the complex links and negotiations between the interests and demands of these groups, this exercise helped highlight the need to look at synergies and overlaps across different stakeholders. For example, illegal resource extraction (such as logging, hunting and fishing) requires close monitoring partnerships between government and communities, not least in transnational border regions that characterise many indigenous communities, such as the Ashaninka, from Peru and Brazil.


CBFM models are seen as valuable and important for communities and increasingly for governments, so long as the information being generated is actually used (CBFM can generate huge amounts of data, which takes significant time and resources to organise and analyse). It is therefore important that CBFM goes beyond meeting local information needs, by contributing to wider monitoring systems, to increase the chances that government will integrate support for CBFM into their agendas, provide long term support and respond to local realities.


HOW: CBFM in practice


The event showcased five different CBFM projects from Peru, Brazil and Guyana that use different technologies (drones and smartphones). The projects vary in terms of their target group, aims, methodologies and overall stage of implementation. Participants were split into five groups and each group visited a poster stand for 30 minutes to listen to a project representative discuss the initiative before switching stands. 



Poster sessions


Projects presented:


PROJECT

AIM

TARGET

MONITORING

Fisheries management and certification

Recover stocks of arapaima (Arapaima gigas, known as pirarucu in Brazil) and build capacity for collective fishery management and MSC certification.  

Indigenous and rural populations living near nine flood plain lakes in the municipalities of Manuel Urbano, Feijó and Tarawaca in Acre, Brazil.

Smartphones and ODK application to monitor fishing practices and stocks; household location; observations on fish mortality, illegal activities, fish landings; type of equipment.

Extreme Citizen Science

Enable the participation of non-literate societies in forest monitoring.

Indigenous Ashaninka community members from the Amônea river in Acre, Brazil.


 

Monitoring illegal activities (hunting, fishing, logging) using icon/illustration based data-gathering software (Sapelli) on smartphones.

Projeto Sinal Verde

Improve reserve management and local decision making.

Extractivist communities of the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve.

Monitoring the effectiveness of management and public policies, forest-based production systems and community wellbeing using ODK and smartphones.

Community Monitoring, Reporting & Verification - Guyana

Improve community resource management and inform REDD+ MRV developments.

16 indigenous Makushi & Wapishana communities of the North Rupunui, Guyana.

Monitoring forest change, community wellbeing, resource use and availability using ODK and smartphone technology.

Monitoring of the Amarakarei Communal Reserve

Develop effective participatory monitoring systems to improve co-management model.

Indigenous Harakbut communities in Madre de Dios, Peru.

Drone and smartphone technology to monitor and document illegal and legal extractive activities within the reserve and surrounding buffer zone.

Digital technology in in community based forest monitoring


Increasingly, digital technologies are being integrated into CBFM models. This generates a wide range of photographic, video, audio and GPS data. It makes data collection more accurate by reducing transcription errors and facilitating analysis.  In some cases, non-literate communities are using digital technology (such as Sapelli), and technology is covering extensive and remote areas (using drones), or proving useful where there is a threat to monitors and conflict needs to be avoided (for example, in the case of monitoring illegal timber extraction or poaching).



Using mobile phone technology in monitoring


It is clear, however, that technology is not appropriate in all contexts.  To explore this further, participants considered three questions: (1) When to use technology in CBFM models? (2) What are the limits of using technological tools? (3) What are the impacts (positive and negative) of using these technologies? The results are in the following table.


When to use technology Limitations Impacts (+ & -)

To obtain information in a short time frame


To minimise errors in data collection and transmission


If long-term finance is available to cover services


To meet a demand for spatial data (e.g. georeferenced data)


To collect data systematically


To be cost-effective


if there is time to develop capacity and ownership


For monitoring remote and extensive areas


When technology can address  physical threats

In situ technological infrastructure


High costs of capacity building and implementation


Adapting the tool to local needs and expectations


Community interests and level of organization


Data interpretation and analysis


Technology maintenance and recycling


Access to energy supply and short battery life


Life span and fragility of technology to environmental factors (e.g. canopy cover and humidity)


Ownership of the information


 


 

Real-time data


Data analysis and processing improvements


Technological dependency


Community conflict and weaken social cohesion


Bad information management


Data visibility and sharing risks


Misuse of tools


Low participation


Attraction to young people

Challenges and conditions to scale-up sustainable community-based forest monitoring


Even with the growing evidence that CBFM can drive improvements in conservation interventions, there are still considerable barriers to scaling up these initiatives. Some of the key areas discussed throughout the event included lack of appropriate institutional arrangements and mandates, unclear data sharing protocols, and divergent methodologies for data collection across different projects.


A practical exercise mapped out existing institutions and the flow of information between local community initiatives and key government institutions. This aimed to consider one of the key impediments to data transfer, namely the lack of legal frameworks to include participatory monitoring models within wider systems. The exercise focused on Guyana, Brazil and Peru. 


A key finding was the need for mandates or policies to use community-generated data.  In the case of AIDESEP in Peru, for example, communities are pushing for the government to give indigenous peoples the legislative mandate to monitor illegal activities, and to tackle the issues locally in partnership with state authorities.


It was also mentioned that data sharing protocols are a key enabling condition to ensure effective data transfers. These protocols set the parameters and underpin agreements between communities and other stakeholders. They determine the flow of relevant data from CBFM models into government institutions, while also ensuring that other data remains at the local level for communities.



Panel discussion


Throughout the seminar, discussions centred on how Acre's Environmental Services Incentive System (SISA) could incorporate a CBFM component. By drawing on community monitoring experiences in the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve, one possible pathway could be independent assessements by communities, tracking indicators relevant to local participation and benefit sharing as part of the SISA safeguard framework (REDD+ Social and Environmental Standards).   


Other debates focused around the need for standardisation of methodologies. IMC's Director, Magaly Medeiros, argued that in some ways it is important to have a minimum protocol in order to align data generated by different monitoring systems. Tathiana Souza from ICMBio offered an example of how this standardisation is being pursued through the application of basic protocols for biodiversity monitoring in Brazil. Others argued that the lack of standardised protocols is not necessarily the barrier, so long as the monitoring questions are aligned around comparable results and objectives. Overall, participants agreed that methodologies need to be tested and adapted further to develop best practices. 


Next steps for CBFM


Although there are ongoing efforts to push for the inclusion of CBFM models within international climate change agreements and forest conservation strategies, it is still important to develop methodologies further, and to create local awareness and ownership over monitoring initiatives.


"Longevity and local ownership are the real challenges of these monitoring initiatives" Tathiana Souza (ICMBio)


Key steps to drive best practice and advance the agenda to scale up existing initiatives include linking different programmes and actors, developing networks and spaces to share experiences and lessons learnt. Platforms like www.forestcompass.org  and www.pmmpartnership.com help bridge these gaps, share information, and create links between CBFM initiatives and actors at different scales.


Current bottom-up approaches, like the Letter from Manaus that sets out agreed guidelines for community involvement in the management and monitoring of biodiversity and natural resources, will be important to build on in order to advance CBFM integration in current forest conservation agendas. 


 


Participant list


Name Organization Country

Cristina M. B. de Lacerda

SEANP-AC 

Brazil

Joventina Claro da Silva Nakamura

FUNTAC 

Brazil

Sabina Cerruto Ribeiro 

UFAC 

Brazil

Tathiana Chaves de Souza

ICMBio

Brazil

Melina Rangel de Andrade

ICMBio 

Brazil

Rosenil Dias de Oliveira

ICMBio 

Brazil

Roberta Graf

ICMBio 

Brazil

Silvana Souza Lessa

ICMBio 

Brazil

Pablo Saldo

ICMBio 

Brazil

Antônio Fernandes de Oliveira

AMOPRESEMA

Brazil

Catia Santos

Independent

Brazil

Nésia Maria da Costa Moreno

IMC

Brazil

Marta Nogueira de Azevedo

IMC

Brazil

Pavel Jezek

IMC

Brazil

Stoney do Nascimento

CTA

Brazil

Adelar Alcantar de Jesus

CTA

Brazil

Maria José Nobre

CTA

Brazil

Jefferson Rodrigues da Silva  Custódio

FUNTAC

Brazil

Francisco da Silva Piyako

OPIRJ

Brazil

Magna Cunha dos  Santos

GIZ

Brazil/Germany

Pollyana Figueira

IPÊ

Brazil

Pedro Constantino

PMMP

Brazil

Enisson Piyãnko Picon Asheninka

Associação Ashaninka do Rio Amônia - Apiwtxa

Brazil

Lucas Souza Silva

WWF - Brazil

Brazil

Antonio Oviedo

WWF – Brazil

Brazil

Ricardo Melo

WWF - Brazil

Brazil

Nelson Gutierrez Carpio

WWF - Peru

Peru

Edwin Dunga Yauta Mamani

SERNAMP

Peru

Ruben Jacinto Ramirez

PNCBMCC

Peru

Sra. Nery Zapata Fasabi

AIDESEP

Peru

George Cuñachi Encinas

AIDESEP

Peru

Juan Carlos Arique Quipe

ECA-RCA

Peru

Michael Williams

NRDDB

Guyana

Carolina Scheneider Comandulli

ExCiteS

United Kingdom

David Sabogal

GCP

United Kingdom

Lucy Goodman

GCP

United Kingdom

Fatima Ferreira da Silva

Mediator/Facilitator

Brazil

Fronika de Wit

Translator

Brazil

Marilú Rosa Aguilar Fernandez

Translator

Brazil

Wladimir Ramos

Technical support

Brazil

International Forest Agendas/s