Forest Watcher: Employing citizen science in forest management of Nepal
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Nepal’s deforestation rate is one of the highest in the world, at 25 percent over the past 20 years. In Nepal, community forest user groups (CFUGs) take care of natural resources and promote social inclusion. The success of a conservation program depends on the involvement of local people.
Forest Watcher is a mobile application that helps collect critical baseline data about forest status and strengthens community participation in forest conservation. It provides dynamic online forest monitoring and alert systems. Data can be stored in the mobile device when it is not connected to the internet. Hence, regardless of connectivity, frontline forest guardians and citizen scientists can quickly access Global Forest Watch (GFW) satellite-derived forest datasets to collect near- real-time tree cover loss, deforestation and fire alerts information in the field.
In collaboration with the relevant Divisional Forest Offices and Local Councils, we trained 68 elected CFUG members from 34 community forests across seven districts of western Nepal to use Forest Watcher. In total, 6,657 hectares of community forest were monitored and 2,983 Global Land Analysis and Discovery (GLAD) deforestation alerts were reported from March 2020 to December 2020. CO2 emissions were the highest in Jumla as the district experienced the greatest tree cover loss (1,160 ha from 2001 to 2020). With Forest Watcher, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, local communities were able to patrol the forests at a safe distance and receive alerts at their fingertips. With mobile applications, data collection will become more efficient and accurate and delivered in real time, thereby reducing the risk of error. It will also be possible to authenticate data. Such data will facilitate the development of long-term effective conservation plans for forests and boost current conservation efforts.