Forestry Reporters, CSOs To Use Mobile App In Tracking Illegality
A new technology meant to track illegal activities in the mining, forestry and other sectors has been introduced in Liberia, to enhance the monitoring and reporting efforts of community dwellers, civil society organizations as well as the media, and draw the government’s attention multiple infringements.
The technology, known as ForestLink, Real Time Monitoring (RTM), was introduced by VOSIEDA under the European Union Non-State Actors Project, and is being implemented by the Independent Civil Society Forest Monitor (CS-IFM) with technical support from the EU-NSA project.
ForestLink-RTM, owned and operated by the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), is a set of software, hardware and methodologies used to collect and transmit geo-reference alerts about illegal logging, illegal mining and other illegalities in “real time”.
According to Journalist Moses R. Quollin, National Coordinator of Liberia Forest Media Watch (LFMW), a consortium of investigative journalists following and reporting on forestry issues, Real-Time community-based monitoring is also a tool that connects local people with national law enforcement in an effort to stop illegal logging and deforestation.
“I understand that the overall aim of the initiative is to promote sustainable, equitable and transparent use of forests by enhancing the role of local communities in forest governance in Liberia. We, as a pro-forest media network (LFMW) following and reporting on issues as such, are being included by the CS-IFM team in order to help raise communities’ voice at national levels,” LFMW’s National Coordinator Moses R. Quollin explained in a briefing with his colleagues.
He made the disclosure on July 13, 2020 following the end of a 3-day introductory training, use of the ForestLink RTM system, which includes a web design, “Monitaur”, and a mobile app, “Collectuar”.
The investigative journalist said by using the tailored system reporters or agents in forest communities can send alert and evidence of a number of threats to the forest, even in remote areas with no mobile connectivity, noting that it uses a satellite, internet and mobile SMS-Short Message Service on smart phones.
“As per my thoughts, it is a simple 5-step procedure but very important for our reportage as investigative journalists following these issues and reporting for our various media houses,” he told his colleagues.
“1. Collect—information is collected using a tablet computer or smartphone; 2. Transmit—using a bespoke app, information is coed and then transmitted to an online repository via a satellite modern transmitter, but in Liberia we are trained to use the mobile phone SMS or internet; 3. Store—the information is stored in a central geographical database where it can be accessed and analyzed by experts and/or automatically re-broadcast for in-field verification of the report. The incident report can be searched for numerous variables, such as the name of company involved, type of infraction, etc.; 4. Verify—the verification stage allows for collection of additional information about the given incident reported: for instance, on the approximate date when it took place, whether it is isolated or a regular occurrence, its author, possible causes and observed impacts and for documenting it visually. The verifier could also assess how the information should be acted on by enforcement agencies, the government; 5. Act—once verified, information would be sent on to responsible enforcement or other agencies.”
Liberia Forest Media Watch (LFMW) is also an outcome of the European Union Non-State Actor (EU-NSA) project: “Strengthening the capacity of non-state actors (NSA) to improve FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ processes in western Africa”. It also coordinates the “Forest Hour,” a local radio advocacy & communication program held every week on OK FM 99.5.
The radio show is intended to raise communities’ voice at national level, ignites nation-wide participation, dialogue on forest laws, policies, agreements and practices within the context of Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). It also draws attention to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and other conditions agreed to in the Volunteer Partnership Agreement (VPA) that was signed between the European Union and the Liberian government to discourage illegal logging and promote transparency and accountability.