In March 2018, the Vital Signs team working with Conservation International-Liberia and the Global Program Support conducted a forest monitoring trainining session for the Frontline conservationists (FCs) of East Nimba Nature Reserve(ENNR). This was in support of the CI-Liberia landscape level approach to conservation in the ENNR which not only addresses biodiversity issues but also the complexities of the interactions among local economies, agriculture and ecosystem services. The approach incorporates a matrix of different land uses including conservation, restoration and production ensuring delivery of a sustainable landscape through conservation agreements.
The training brought together over thirty Frontline Conservationists representing twelve communities living around the ENNR as well as rangers from the Forest Development Authority. As part of the training, the Frontline Conservationists were guided through an online forest monitoring application which measures various conservation outcomes including reduced deforestation and hunting of protected species. The FCs through the application captures observed threats to wildlife, illegal charcoal burning, illegal logging, signs of encroachment, illegal hunting including snares and extractions that threaten the community and protected parts of the forest. Remote sensing data will be used to supplement the FCs survey data and produce land cover change maps of the reserve.
The application developed through Survey123 and built on the ESRI platform- replaces the redundancy of paper data collection and meticulous data entry freeing up time for CI-Liberia staff to train additional FCs and expand the program. The online monitoring tool allows for near real-time monitoring of the project outcomes and evidence-based monitoring of encountered violations.
In the long term, the forest monitoring program will include measures of socioeconomic outcomes of the program overall delivering a strengthened system for compliance and performance monitoring for conservation agreements in Liberia. The monitoring approach could also be adopted by other Conservation International global programs implementing a similar approach to conservation.