FAO in Bangladesh

Participatory forest monitoring using volunteered geographic information in co-management areas in Bangladesh


Recent technological advances using satellite images provide robust information about forest cover change but not all the necessary information for forest management and planning at the local level. Engaging local community volunteers is a promising way to fill this gap of information. In Bangladesh, there is a history of participation of community people for forest management, beginning with social forestry programs in the 1980’s in the hill and sal forests. Thus, there is great potential to build on this history to grow participatory forest monitoring efforts, involving more people and covering more parts of Bangladesh in new and creative ways. Furthermore, it can build collaboration between communities and the Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD) because government foresters need the current information provided by local volunteers that would otherwise be difficult to collect.

Local level information, collected by forest communities and in collaboration with BFD, will support forest management and conservation of forestry resources. It can highlight forest land area changes, the drivers of change, and successful forest management approaches which could be scaled-up and/or replicated elsewhere. For example, this approach allows locals who are naturally motivated to contribute to the understanding of their own forests, to be involved in forest mapping of protected areas and better understand available forest resources.

The BFD with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is implementing an innovative volunteered geographic information tool for participatory co-management, planning, and monitoring. Open Street Map (OSM) is a free, user-friendly web-based technology for creating editable maps and is currently being piloted in Fasiakhali Wildlife Sanctuary (WS). Local community knowledge can be integrated to OSM to acquire real-time location-based data for resource mapping. The co-management committee (CMC) of Fashiakhali WS was involved in the design of the participatory forest monitoring process and use of OSM. Officials from BFD, Climate-Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods project and FAO participated in the local consultations.


In addition, a mapathon event was conducted on 22nd March 2018 at BFD during which participants from the OSM Bangladesh volunteer community, BFD, and Youth Mappers of Eastern University attended. A mapathon is a coordinated mapping exercise that makes online maps by drawing features using high-resolution satellite imageries with OSM.


Additional training will be organized in Fashakhali WS to train local communities on OSM. Verification of the OSM map will be conducted with the support of community people during the training and in collaboration with BFD. The pilot exercise using OSM in Fashakhali WS will be discussed further in BFD for its consideration for future forest management and planning activities.