RFUK’s groundbreaking mapping project wins UN award

UNaward_RFUKMappingForRights, RFUK’s community mapping and monitoring initiative, has won a prestigious United Nations climate change award, it was announced today (Thursday 29th September).

The project, led by us and our local partners in Africa’s Congo Basin and the Peruvian Amazon regions, has been awarded a UNFCCC Momentum for Change Award for helping people and the planet by engaging forest communities in real-time forest monitoring and empowering them to map and take control of their lands, territories and resources.

Simon Counsell, Executive Director of RFUK, said that “The UN Momentum for Change Award gives recognition to the growing possibility provided by technology for local communities to gain control of their forest lands, and thus contribute to sustainably protecting them and the carbon stores they represent. We hope this will encourage governments to recognise communities’ maps and forest monitoring as a basis for stronger tenure and control over the resources they depend on.”

MappingForRights, funded by UKAID/Department for International Development (DFID), supports communities in developing accurate printed maps of their lands, and is also an online platform allowing indigenous community leaders, decision-makers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the region easy access to accurate geographical information about community lands and forest use. The project puts communities on the map, highlighting the presence of otherwise ‘invisible’ groups.

In 2015, we launched ForestLink. This break-through monitoring system allows even the most remote communities to capture and transmit alerts on illegal logging and other deforestation activities to authorities in real-time – even in areas where there is no mobile or internet connectivity.

The ForestLink pilot in Cameroon was carried out with Forêts et Développement Rural (FODER), a local NGO that works with forest communities on monitoring forest activities, corruption and governance. FODER founder Rodrigue Nzongo said, “ForestLink provides communities and civil society with new tools to monitor change in forest use and in their environment, to inform decision-makers in real-time so they can take action, and to contribute to the fight against illegal logging.”

By 2017, it is expected that more than 700 communities in the Congo Basin will have mapped their lands through the MappingForRights programme, and up to six million hectares of forest community land will be mapped and uploaded to the central database.

With our local partners, we are currently training forest monitors from more than 30 communities in Africa and Peru to use the ForestLink system – nearly 60 community members in Africa have already been trained and are currently further testing the technology.

MappingForRights has been recognised under the ICT Solutions focus area for its work to build climate change resilience by empowering indigenous peoples and local communities on the frontline of deforestation.

The Momentum for Change initiative is spearheaded by the UNFCCC secretariat, and aims to highlight some of the most innovative, scalable and replicable examples of what people are doing worldwide to address climate change.

Together with the other winning projects, MappingForRights will be showcased at a series of special events during the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco (7th to 18th November 2016).