FLEGT Watch, a forest management support software presented to logging companies in the Congo Basin


As part of the activities of the FLEGT-IP, FLEGT-REDD and FLEGT-Certification projects, implemented in four (4) Congo Basin countries (Cameroon, Congo, Gabon and DR Congo), a tool to help the forest management was presented to private sector logging companies to strengthen their forest management capacity, at the initiative of ATIBT. This presentation made by the company VisioTerra under the facilitation of CIDT during a training workshop held on October 3rd and 4th, 2019 in Douala, was intended to make the private sector aware of the digital potentials usable for monitoring purposes logging operations and surveillance of inappropriate activities in logging concessions.

The usefulness of remote sensing for monitoring and forest management is well established, especially in the current context marked by technological advances in the digital world. In this context, initiatives aimed at providing assistance to stakeholders interested in forest management and in monitoring the evolution of the forest cover have emerged.

A typical example is the FLEGT Watch tool (developed by VisioTerra and CIDT), which is currently used by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the context of independent forest observation on deforestation aspects in and outside forest permits.

The FLEGT Watch tool uses all the remote sensing data available free of charge, in particular that of European satellites (Sentinels 1 & 2) to identify areas of deforestation (logging areas, road construction, land clearing for agriculture, etc.), with updates every 6 days, or even every 3 days with the Sentinel 2 satellite.

To be able to use this tool, these NGOs received training in December 2018, and since then receive very regular information on logging areas that they analyze to locate exactly where logging companies and illegal operators work. This information could also be very useful for forest managers, since the FLEGT Watch tool can be used to help detect intrusions (illegal logging) in forest permits, or better to monitor the progress of logging in an annual cutting area (ACA).

It is with this in mind that ATIBT requested specific training from CIDT for the private sector. CIDT and FLAG organized and financed the training as part of their CV4C project, which is financed by the European Union. As for ATIBT and GFBC this action to reinforce private sector capacity contributes to the implementation of the FLEGT-IP, FLEGT-REDD and FLEGT-Certification projects, funded respectively by the European Union (EU), the French Global Environment Facility (FFEM) and PPECF-COMIFAC (KfW). These projects aim to improve the participation of the private sector in the FLEGT and REDD VPA processes, as well as to contribute to the expansion of the area of certified third party forests and the recognition of certification in Voluntary Partnership Agreements in the Congo Basin. It should be recalled here that the monitoring of illegal activities is a very important aspect in both legality and forest management certification, and its control through software would be a major asset for companies applying for third party certification.

For logging companies, this training would allow them to:

1. have a computer tool to monitor the progress of logging operations in the concessions;

2. be alerted to intrusions by third parties for the purpose of illegal activities in concessions;

3. have time to exchange with VisioTerra in order to better adapt the tool to the needs of companies.

However, the participants in this demonstration found the tool in its current state, unsuitable for the needs of the private sector. Indeed, FLEGT Watch was originally designed for independent observation of forest cover without the stated objective of assisting in the actual management of forest operations. For the moment the tool is inappropriate for detecting disturbances caused by tree felling, as the satellite’s detection resolution is wider (10 to 20 m wide), and so the tool mainly detects forest opening for road construction and large clearings. In addition, the identification of disturbances by the software requires image processing by VisioTerra before it can be made available to users. This means that the time between the occurrence of the disturbances and the alert by the software to users can be long.

Expectations regarding the FLEGT Watch tool have been formulated in the form of recommendations to make improvements and make the tool directly operational. These recommendations are contained in the training report which can be downloaded from this link.