Forest Watcher: an app for forests, chimpanzees and people
If their populations are to survive, chimpanzees in Western Uganda must cross a 40km gap between the two forest reserves of Budonga and Bugoma. Unfortunately, the forest corridors in this area are rapidly being lost, as landowners clear them for agriculture.
The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) has worked with communities in the area for many years, encouraging them to develop alternative, sustainable livelihoods that provide incentives to keep the forest standing. Support to Private Forest Owner Associations has enabled these groups to become formally registered and develop land use plans that show which areas of forest will be protected - to benefit wildlife, to protect the soil and water quality, and potentially to enable locals to benefit from the region's developing REDD+ programme.
Most recently, JGI has been working with the National Forestry Authority and the World Resources Institute (WRI), to develop and test the new Forest Watcher app, launched in Kampala in April 2016. This builds on Open Data Kit (ODK) and WRI's Global Forest Watch platform, and enables local forest monitors and rangers to use smart phones and tablets to investigate and verify apparent instances of deforestation, and upload their own data. The monitors use various monitoring forms to log any evidence of wildlife (such as chimpanzee nests and sightings), as well as data on local harvests, housing and land use conflicts, and information to feed into the REDD+ programme.
The initiative has brought benefits for communities, the authorities, and JGI. Local forest owners are impressed with the technology, and interested in taking part in forest monitoring in order to support their land use planning. The improved access to timely data on land use change has helped identify hotspots of illegal activity, which have been targeted by increased patrols. The work and the data it generates directly support Uganda's national objectives for conservation, which include reforestation, agroforestry, forest corridors, and improved governance. JGI can now map chimpanzee movements, improve their modelling of land use change, and use this to develop better conservation strategies.
You can read more about the partnership for mapping and monitoring forest corridors in the latest Forest COMPASS case study, here.