Thailand timber traceability improved through digital application development


With over 16.4 million hectares of forested land, covering almost one-third of the country, ensuring the traceability and legality of timber entering Thailand’s supply-chains is a critical step towards meeting their commitments under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement, which Thailand began negotiating with the European Union in 2017. In this context, the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme has supported the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) to develop a digital mobile application in partnership with the Royal Forest Department (RFD) to increase the efficiency and transparency of the process for issuing legality certificates upon verifying timber legality in the field.  

Embracing digital solutions

The Royal Forest Department is increasingly exploring the usage of IT solutions to replace paper-based processes. Under the RFD Single Window (RSW), nine electronic subsystems are currently under development or have recently been developed. These subsystems in their entirety will constitute RFD’s Timber Verification System, ensuring compliance with Thailand’s forestry codes and regulations and offering enhanced traceability in the supply chain.

According to Thailand’s forest legislation, those wishing to sell or export timber must have a certificate of ownership that verifies timber legality. Currently, the process of verifying logs requires field officials to record the land (which the tree was planted on) information, tree information, and log information on paper-based forms, which are later uploaded to the Royal Forest Department’s (RFD) Wood Verification System.

The application developed by AIT will allow field officials to utilise available portable devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, to collect the essential information and upload it directly to RFD’s databases. The data collected will be used to issue the certificate in near real-time, allowing the owner to transport the logs for processing at sawmills or export them directly to other countries in tighter timeframes than previously possible. This will link with other existing systems in which farmers and plantation owners initiate requests for certification by uploading key documents and evidence to the Forest Resources Management Office for review before arranging an inspection by field officials.

“FAO would like to congratulate RFD on their commitment to developing innovative new IT tools that will improve the efficiency of forest resource data collection and which will aid verification of the legality of timber produced in Thailand,” said Erica Pohnan of the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme. “We also hope that the partnership developed with AIT under this project will lead to further collaboration on other technological solutions towards improved traceability of timber and timber products.”

Responding to user needs

To fully understand the needs of field officials, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Center of AIT conducted extensive field visits at different stages along the timber supply chain, including a log farm, timber export site, import site, and transportation checkpoints. These field visits enabled the mobile application design to build on the existing practices of RFD field officials, a best practice that has been identified through previous FAO-EU FLEGT Programme supported work on the development of traceability systems. To ensure that field officials can use the new system effectively, the AI Center created training materials that are simple and easy-to-follow, including graphic depictions and videos.

“The mobile app is developed in line with RFD’s needs and will help RFD officers to verify the origin of timber as required by the law. This will help improve the efficiency of the RFD Timber Verification process and provide secure working conditions for RFD female officers,” said Mr Tanongsak Nontapa, Director of the Forest Economic Office of RFD.

During the project, AIT found that a lack of technical IT skills exacerbated inequalities between men and women in Thailand’s forestry sector. As such, in developing training materials and the application itself, the AI Center has carefully considered how to overcome gender, social and technological divides in recognition of the potential of IT tools to empower women in their work. Under a newly signed Memorandum of Understanding with RFD, AIT remains committed to supporting RFD in its transition to digitalization for enhanced timber traceability and contributions to empowering women working across the supply chain through appropriate information and communication technology applications

In August 2020, AIT then collaborated with KSC and RFD to train RFD officials from central and field offices to use the application. At the training, RFD expressed its commitment towards the further rollout of the mobile application. In this spirit, the trained officials will visit the field to monitor the use of the application to identify any difficulties that require attention, encouraging continuous and long-term improvement of the system.


For more information:

Asian Institute of Technology

AI Center at AIT


 Since 2016 the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme has supported 18 projects in Thailand, amounting to approximately USD 1 380 000, primarily focusing on fostering participatory national decision making, developing the national Timber Legality Assurance System and strengthening VPA monitoring structures and efforts.

The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme is a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources for activities that further the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan. The Programme is funded by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.