Forest surveys in developing countries support climate change mitigation
Finland’s support has helped developing countries map their forest resources with good results. Decisions on, for example, climate change mitigation and adaptation require background information on the number of forests, changes to forests, and species.
About fifty international forest specialists discussed these themes at a seminar held in Helsinki on Tuesday. The availability of information was one of the central issues brought up at the seminar: several specialists emphasised the importance of making the information publicly available.
In many countries, information on forests might not even be available to all authorities. Clear instructions will be released to tackle the availability issue.
One of the presentations at the seminar was on the Sustainable management of forests in a changing climate programme of Finland and the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The programme will be implemented in Tanzania, Zambia, Vietnam, Peru and Ecuador in 2009–2016. Finland will fund the programme with a sum of EUR 16 million.
The programme has included, among other things, planning and carrying out forest inventories, creating forest information systems, and education and skills training for personnel in the five countries.
“The key question is how do people access and use the information”, says Anssi Pekkarinen, FAO Forestry Officer.
An application funded by Finland provides information on the Earth’s forest resources
One of the actions within the joint programme between the FAO and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs was to develop a smart phone and tablet application for the monitoring of forests. The Open Foris application was funded with development cooperation funds, and it is free for the user. So far, the application has been used in 30 countries, and the application website has had 25,000 unique visitors.
Open Foris includes tools for the collection, storage and analysis of terrain data, as well as reading functions for satellite imagery and remote sensing material.
The particular purpose of the application is to help developing countries to collect forest resources data. Developing countries seldom have sufficient information on their forest resources to enable sustainable forestry.
Open Foris is based on Finnish know-how in forestry. One of the developers of the application was Arbonaut Oy from Finland.
“Finland’s long-term expertise in forest monitoring and special know-how in remote sensing enjoy international recognition. We are the leading country in forest information,” says Vesa Kaarakka, Senior Adviser, Forest Sector at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Tanzania, a country with an area three times the size of Finland, is the first African country to carry out a comprehensive inventory of its forest resources. The work started in the 1970s, and the latest mapping project involved interviews with more than 3,000 Tanzanian households.
Many reasons for deforestation
“The greatest threat facing Tanzanian forests is population growth. More and more land is needed for food production and housing, and trees are also harvested for energy. The mining industry is another source of threat to the forests,” says Nurdin Chamuya, Project Coordinator at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism of United Republic of Tanzania and one of the speakers at the seminar.
The mapping of forest resources has also started in the neighbouring country, Zambia. Providing information to and developing the expertise of local partners is an important part of the programme, because it will enable the work to outlive the international support, which will end after 2016.
“The mapping of forest resources helps us understand the factors that lead to deforestation. This work benefits all parties, and climate change has made it crucial,” says Mindenda Pande, Principal Forestry Officer at the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Zambia.
The Forest and development seminar was held in Helsinki on 1 March by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources Institute (LUKE), in cooperation with the international organisations the IUFRO, the WFSE and the FAO.
The author is a Communications Officer at Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.
Science to support decision-making in developing countries
The IUFRO (International Union of Forest Research Organizations) has established its position as the promoter of international cooperation in the field of forest research and as the provider of training to research institutes and researchers in developing countries.
The aim of the cooperation between the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the IUFRO is to make the international scientific community more invested in international forest policy processes. The scientific approach could solve negotiation conflicts by opening up new perspectives.
The Special Project on World Forests, Society and Environment (WFSE) is an originally Finnish initiative that has proven to be able to produce multinational, multidisciplinary information that societies in developing countries need for enhancing their decision-making. The WFSE project involves 10 international partner organisations. The collaborative project is a good way to ensure that the contributions are relevant for development cooperation policies.
The WFSE’s role is not to carry out new research, but to analyse and synthesise existing scientific knowledge. This method can produce results quickly, in 1–2 years. The WFSE method has received lots of attention, and the current number of researchers volunteering for the project is over 200.
The author is a Senior Adviser for Development Policy at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.