ForestLink

Overview

Our community forest monitoring initiative unlocks the potential of forest guardians by connecting them with law enforcement agencies to monitor and protect forests. At the heart of this is ForestLink, a breakthrough system that enables communities to transmit highly accurate and low cost geographical alerts of illegal forest activities in real-time, even in remote areas with no connectivity.

Local monitors send alerts of potential illegal logging near Bibindi, Cameroon | Credit: Élodie Barralon
Local monitors send alerts of potential illegal logging near Bibindi, Cameroon | Credit: Élodie Barralon

The issue

Illegal logging and mining cause a breakdown in forest habitats, undermine forest and indigenous peoples' livelihoods and destroy ecosystems.  Conventional approaches to monitoring and tackling illegal deforestation don’t always get to the root of the problem. National and local authorities often lack the means to supervise and control extractive industries' operations, and local communities lack the means and resources to alert authorities to illegalities. Many independent observation programmes depend on costly and inefficient field missions by international and national NGOs. New advances in satellite forest monitoring have transformed our ability to detect forest loss but may not show us what is causing it and can be detached from local realities and law enforcement systems.

By engaging communities in the fight to tackle illegal logging, this project seeks to strengthen their involvement in forest management using our innovative ForestLink technology. In this way, real time data from communities with local knowledge has made Independent Forest Monitoring a more ‘bottom up’ process, and forest authorities in project countries have praised the contribution of community monitoring to forest governance.

What we're doing

  • Our community forest monitoring initiative aims to unlocks the potential of traditional forest guardians in monitoring and protecting their forest lands. At the heart of this is ForestLink – a breakthrough system that enables communities to transmit highly accurate and low cost geographical alerts on illegal forest activities in real-time – even in remote areas with no connectivity.
  • ForestLink is deployed in DRC, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia and Peru. Hundreds of community monitors are generating thousands of alerts that are reducing illegal logging, seizures of illegal timber and equipment, landmark court cases and a better deal for communities. 
  • The versatility of the systems means it can used to monitor human rights, women's land rights ans poaching.
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Our impacts

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400 community monitors trained

Nearly 400 community monitors in seven countries trained and using ForestLink.

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law enforcement & governance improved

Improvements in the detection and enforcement of illegal logging in target areas.

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Thousands of ALERTS generated

Major impacts such as convictions, landmark court cases and seizures - such as the removal of illegal mining equipment across the Madre de Dios region in Peru.

"With the ForestLink system, I know that using just a mobile phone I can record an illegality anywhere in the forest. With this project I think the community will really see a change... We're not just doing it for ourselves, we're doing it for our children too."

Longine, community monitor, Cameroon

"We have never had anything like this technology in the community. You know that illegal mining is nearby, and we sometimes see miners along the river. RFUK's ForestLink system allows us to be safer. We can control our territory now and send alerts if anything happens."

Wilmer, community monitor, Peru

"I am quite satisfied with the project so far. Especially the training that has been given to our community monitors... I would like for us to be able to help ourselves, now that you have helped us start the process of standing up for our rights. And looking forward, we can start to restore the remaining rainforest for future generations."

Nestor, community leader, Cameroon

Featured publications

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Final evaluation: Embedding community Real Time Monitoring (RTM) to sustain livelihoods and forests in West and Central Africa

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Mapping the future: towards meaningful participation of forest peoples in land use planning in DRC and Cameroon

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Real-time Forest Monitoring: Empowering communities, preventing illegalities, protecting forests

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Peru: RFUK’s programme in the Andean Amazon