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Application of ICTs in Forestry Management

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March 21 is the International Day of Forests (IDF) and was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012.On this day, the world celebrates and raises awarenes of the importance of all types of woodlands and trees in sustaining livelihoods. The management of forestry resources has also been reinforced by the United Nations, for example,sustainable development goal (SDG) 15 aims to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.

International Day of Forests 2017

The theme of this day in 2017 is "Forests and energy", a special video to commemorate this day has been released.

ICTs and Forestry Managament

It is befitting on such a day to consider the role of ICTs in sustainable forestry management, albeit a short blog like this might not do justice to this robust and vast topic.

The main issue worrying policy markers today is uncontrolled deforestation, resulting in soil erosion, desertification, biodiversity loss and the ensuing socio-economic upheavals (CTA, 2004).

The trend in literature shows that ICTs have been applied in two key areas of forest management - in mapping and monitoring of forest resources and environmental threats, and in raising awareness of the need for sustainable forestry practices.In order for this to happen proper policies and laws in protection and management of forestry resources to be in place.

A study by the World Bank showed that ICTs have been used in forest governance and that there is a need to apply ICTs in all the aspects of forest management.The finding of this study showed that there is a need for good policy framework; proper identification of the technological needs; decision on proper entry points in the adoption; design of propoer applications; involve the communities; address the issues of data security and priviledges and ensure buy-in by forest authorities and other stakeholders (Tuukka and Madhavi, 2011).

The Global Forest Watch (GFW), published some examples where forest is used to improve governance. These included,

  • Recycled cell phones capture chainsaw noises to prevent illegal logging in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia [Rainforest Connection]
  • Barcode tags help map timber supply chains in West Africa and the Congo Basin [Mobile devices and intelligence software]
  • Bulgarians use SMS to post reports of illegal logging [BlueLink Information Network]
  • Indigenous group in Brazilian Amazon sells forest carbon offsets [Paiter-Surui]
  • Illiterate indigenous communities use smart phones to stop illegal logging in Congo Basin [Extreme Citizen Science]
  • E-mail alert system for fires in protected areas in Madagascar, Indonesia, and South America [NASA - Fire Information for Resource Management System]
  • Cloud-based application maps urban forests in the United States [Open Tree Map]

ICT Solutions for Forestry Resources

As stated earlier on ICTs can contribute immensely to the sustainable management of foresty and forestry resources. Yet where can foresters and policy makers get a compedium of ICT solutions for forestry resources. I found the e-book, entitled, ICT Solutions for Development Challnges very relevant and also helpful for also developing countries.

This e-book compiles ICT tools and applications relevant to three primary challenges in the forest sector: data used for decision making purposes, governance and institutions, and the empowerment of forest communities.These themes are arranged into three respective modules. A number of case studies, tools and various information sources are given.

On community empowerment the following cases studies are intriguing and very enriching to read:-

Conclusion

ICTs premise to play a leading role in the future management of forestry resources and woodlands. There are many opportunities in satelite imaging and also in forestry mapping. However, what is yet to be seen is further application of technology in the value chains within forestry management.