Apr 10, 2015

FAO, Norway to help monitor forest resources

The Norway and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have signed a $ 4.5 million agreement for developing countries to monitor and report on their forest resources and changes in forest area.

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A statement by FAO and copied to Ghana News Agency on Monday said the project would facilitate countries’ access to earth observation data sources, including satellite imagery, and develop an easy-to-use platform for processing and interpreting this data.

“The new platform offers countries a set of efficient tools for monitoring changes in their forest area and carbon stocks, and for developing sustainable forest management regimes,” Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director-General of FAO’s Forestry Department said.

It said gaining access to satellite imagery could be difficult for users with poor internet connections, posing a serious challenge for natural resource managers in developing countries while old and outdated computers processed large-scale data very slowly.

It said FAO’s new software aimed to overcome the problems by avoiding the need to download images locally and by using a scalable, “cloud-based” supercomputer instead.

The statement observed that all downloading and processing took place elsewhere, in locations where connections were good and large amounts of computing power was available.

“One of the important components here is the creation of a user-friendly and efficient, cloud-based computing interface”, explains Tiina Vähänen, Deputy Director of FAO’s Forest Assessment, Management and Conservation Division.”

“The use of this interface will allow quick access to remote sensing data as well as to high-performance computing facilities, even in countries with limited access to internet,” he added.

Vähänen said many users in developing countries had limited resources to buy licenses of proprietary software.

“They often simply do not have access to the tools they need. Open source software which was developed under the FAO’s Open Foris Initiative and used in the project is available for everyone without license costs and allows the end user to modify the programme to suit their purposes”, she added.

It said at the initial stage FAO would start implementing the new system in 13 countries over the next three years in support of activities under the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD).

It noted that the system would be mainly used by forestry technicians to monitor and assess how much carbon forest areas stock, enabling countries to report on and receive compensation for verified emission reductions.

“Satellite imagery and other earth observation data are important for countries working to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation,” Lars Andreas Lunde, State Secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment said.

“Improved forest monitoring systems enable better informed decision making and policy development, and enable tracking of performance in reducing forest based emissions. This is why Norway is supporting this project through its International Climate and Forest Initiative,” he said.