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


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
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
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 


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 programme
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 noticeboard
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
Poster sessions

Projects presented:





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).

mobile phone monitoring
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
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  and 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



Joventina Claro da Silva Nakamura



Sabina Cerruto Ribeiro 



Tathiana Chaves de Souza



Melina Rangel de Andrade



Rosenil Dias de Oliveira



Roberta Graf



Silvana Souza Lessa



Pablo Saldo



Antônio Fernandes de Oliveira



Catia Santos



Nésia Maria da Costa Moreno



Marta Nogueira de Azevedo



Pavel Jezek



Stoney do Nascimento



Adelar Alcantar de Jesus



Maria José Nobre



Jefferson Rodrigues da Silva  Custódio



Francisco da Silva Piyako



Magna Cunha dos  Santos



Pollyana Figueira



Pedro Constantino



Enisson Piyãnko Picon Asheninka

Associação Ashaninka do Rio Amônia - Apiwtxa


Lucas Souza Silva

WWF - Brazil


Antonio Oviedo

WWF – Brazil


Ricardo Melo

WWF - Brazil


Nelson Gutierrez Carpio

WWF - Peru


Edwin Dunga Yauta Mamani



Ruben Jacinto Ramirez



Sra. Nery Zapata Fasabi



George Cuñachi Encinas



Juan Carlos Arique Quipe



Michael Williams



Carolina Scheneider Comandulli


United Kingdom

David Sabogal


United Kingdom

Lucy Goodman


United Kingdom

Fatima Ferreira da Silva



Fronika de Wit



Marilú Rosa Aguilar Fernandez



Wladimir Ramos

Technical support


International Forest Agendas/s