UN launches ‘game-changer’ software to help developing countries monitor forests

FAO has launched free software tools that it hopes will improve the way many developing nations monitor the state of their forests to tackle deforestation and climate change. Photo: FAO/Joan Manuel Baliellas

10 October 2014 – Accurate information is crucial for governments to manage their natural resources sustainably, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today as it announced the launch of new software it hopes will help developing nations monitor the state of their forests.

“Many countries simply do not have a full picture of what is happening in their forests, and without that knowledge it is hard to develop effective forest policies to combat deforestation and forest degradation or to advance national climate change strategies,” said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director-General for FAO Forestry, in a press release.

As it stands now, nearly 80 percent of developing countries have difficulty obtaining and using basic information about their forest resources.

“Open Foris” is a FAO-led initiative designed to assist countries in forest inventory – from assessment, design and field data collection to analysis and reporting. Released today at the International Union of Forest Research Organizations' World Congress in Salt Lake City, Open Foris tools are already being tested in more than ten countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“We hope that Open Foris will be a game changer, as it is the first comprehensive open source tool that will not only guide the countries through the whole process of data collection and analysis but will also encourage and facilitate open knowledge sharing in an innovative way,” said Mr. Rojas-Briales.

The new software includes built-in tools to help countries meet international reporting requirements related to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and increasing the carbon stock in forests. In addition, the FAO tools simplify the complex process of transforming raw data such as tree measurements and satellite imagery into interactive web pages with statistics, graphs, maps and reports.

“Increased transparency will help the policy makers obtain the information they need to make informed decisions,” said Mr. Rojas-Briales, adding that earlier this year Ecuador and Tanzania have already completed their first national forest inventories with the help of Open Foris tools.

Meanwhile, experts from Argentina, Bhutan, Papua New Guinea and Uruguay have recently received training to use different components of the software.

In Viet Nam, forest rangers are collecting information on the number, size, species and quality of trees as well as the use of forest resources by local populations before entering the data into Open Foris software back at the office.

The process is expected to become even more efficient when rangers start using an Open Foris tool that enables them to enter data directly with their smartphones or tablets, eliminating the need to input information collected on paper forms.


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