A recent study by Nairobi’s World Agroforestry Centre in combination with various European and Southeast Asian institutions has proved that local communities can generate helpful forest carbon data using remarkably simple tools like ropes and sticks. And the results are just as accurate, if not more reliable, as those generated by research professionals with their often-expensive high tech devices.
Time to get local people in on the job
On the downside, the research found that almost half of the official projects looking at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation don’t use local people to collect data, despite the UN stating they must ensure communities’ “full and effective participation.”
Local data is more legitimate and cost-effective
Data gathered by local people is also more legitimate and cost-effective in the long run. The involvement of local communities is seen as vital to conservation because it helps close the “massive” gulf between promises made internationally and the actual realities on the ground, in the forests themselves.
The research highlights how community monitoring would significantly improve global efforts to fight climate change by incorporating the insights of people who depend on the forests for their living. Because they have a real vested interest, they are keen to protect their precious natural resources.
Data good enough for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The research reveals strikingly similar results between community members and professional foresters across all sorts of countries and forest types. The findings corroborate the theory that even poorly-educated communities can accurately monitor forest biomass, not just highly trained professionals. In fact the data collected is so good it easily meets the standards of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
So what’s the problem? Apparently there are several obstacles to effective community engagement including a lack of awareness, experts who train local people being unaware of the excellent low-tech methods available, varying skills amongst locals, different standards of training and varying monitoring methods. Thankfully they are all relatively easy to resolve.
Article contributed by the Rainforest Foundation.