An increasing feature of FPP’s work with forest peoples is supporting them to monitor their community’s wellbeing and the state of their territories, for instance the health of biodiversity, climate change impacts, or effects of unsustainable activities such as illegal logging or mining. Communities also monitor national or local level implementation of international biodiversity, climate, development and human rights agreements. While ‘tracking what is going on in forest peoples’ lands’ itself is nothing new, what is new is the emerging international attention for ‘community-based monitoring and information systems (CBMIS)’ and the acknowledgement by international policy-makers, academe, and conservation and development agencies, that indigenous peoples and local communities have important contributions to make to global assessments and monitoring initiatives because of their profound knowledge and connection to their lands and resources. Another ‘new’ dimension of monitoring is related to the use of new, accessible, cheap and easy technology, which allows communities to generate, analyze, store and process their data into maps and other output products, applying a mix of traditional knowledge and innovative tools and approaches. FPP supports partners to familiarise themselves with such new approaches and to apply and benefit from them. One example is a practical, hands-on CBMIS training that was organised for a number of close FPP partners in Khun Tae village, Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, in January of this year. The training was facilitated by Ms Tui Shortland of the Ngati Hine Nation in Aotearoa/New Zealand. She shared Ngati Hine’s monitoring experience and the tools they chose. The Ngati Hine people have developed a well-advanced and systematic monitoring initiative years ago, to monitor the range of changes in the communities’ environment and to ensure an abundance of species to sustain the livelihoods of the Nhati Hine people. It has helped them to revitalise their traditional knowledge and to take an active role in the management of resources, involving all groups in the community, including youth. CBMIS can be done with numerous instruments and many programmes are now available, and new ones are being created all the time so each community can assess which one is the most suitable for them. In this training the partners worked with tablets (as the Ngati Hine people found it easier to work on maps and forms on a larger surface compared to smartphones) and learned to work with a programme called GIS Cloud, which was recommended by Ngati Hine because of its capacity to collect data and put it straight into a map within the same programme, without having to export the shape files to external GIS programmes. Maps, layers and data collection forms can be created in a map editor function, and then there is a GIS Cloud application that can be used in the field to collect data, using the forms (offline and then uploaded into the map later or directly if there is internet connection). Partners attending the training learned about the two functions of GIS Cloud and practiced in the field, and looked for base maps of their own territories. The trainer held one to one sessions with each of the partners to discuss potential monitoring priorities and provide advice and guidance on how to translate them into forms and layers in the programme. Joint discussions were also held to exchange experiences on monitoring work partners were already engaged in (including land use, land tenure and biodiversity), reasons for monitoring, and important issues like data protection and storing. Data protection and access to, and sharing of, information is an important matter that needs to be discussed and agreed upon before starting data collection. For instance related to sacred sites or other culturally sensitive or private data. In general the exercise was seen as extremely interesting and useful, although this clearly was an introductory course that requires more follow-up and practice. One of the important comments that were made by the participants was that with modern tools anybody in the community can collect data, it is no longer the realm of external ‘experts’. As the participants stressed: “Data collection should be decided by the community and controlled and owned by it”.
Caroline de JongLink: www.giscloud.com