The Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism

Making digital technology and satellite imagery in land use assessment more accessible towards FLR

Year published: 06/02/2020

The pressure on land and natural resources is greater than at any other time in human history. In Kenya, rapidly increasing populations and rising levels of consumption, and the lack of alternatives for livelihoods are placing ever-larger demands on our natural capital leading to degradation, desertification, deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change.

Many countries lack adequate financial resources and technical skills to prevent the causes of depletion of natural resources, and still rely on time-consuming and error-prone manual methods to monitor these processes. Through The Restoration Initiative (TRI) programme, FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have come together to bridge this gap by providing technical and financial support to ensure timely and efficient monitoring of land use changes through satellite imagery.

Digital technology and satellite imagery can transform the way countries can assess, monitor and plan the use of their natural resources, including monitoring deforestation and desertification. The technology offers wide coverage, is faster than ground methods and facilitates long term monitoring of land coverage and usage.

The initiative is contributing to the following Sustainable Development Goals:

Using the FAO tool Collect Earth, FAO and UNEP have been able to assess trees and forest cover using a Mapathon exercise (a coordinated mapping event held inside a room with strong internet for simultaneous access, assisted by satellite imagery) in two project sites/landscapes, Mukogodo forest in Laikipia/Isiolo Counties and mount Kulal in Marsabit County, Kenya.  Collect Earth is a free and open-source land monitoring software tool that enables data collection through Google Earth images, in conjunction with Bing Maps and Google Earth Engine information. By accessing it, users can analyze high and very high-resolution satellite imagery for a wide variety of purposes, including:

  • Support multi-phase National Forest Inventories
  • Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) assessments
  • Monitoring agricultural land and urban areas
  • Validation of existing maps
  • Collection of spatially explicit socio-economic data
  • Quantifying deforestation, reforestation and desertification

Thanks to this collaboration of FAO and UNEP and using Collect Earth, land use and land use change assessments have become more accessible to local government and non-governmental institutions such as Kenya Forestry Research Institute  and Nature Kenya, the lead agents to the two child projects of TRI in Kenya. Other Institutions whose capacity in land use assessment has been built are; Kenya Forest service, Laikipia Wildlife Forum, Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT), National Museums of Kenya (NMK), Centre for Training and integrated Research in ASAL Development, County Governments and the respective local communities.

Overally, 23 staff from these institutions have been trained and have collected data from over 10 000 plots in the project sites which will act as the baseline for monitoring the land use and land use changes in these areas.

The organizations have also further built the capacity of the national staff through the Global TRI workshop held in Rome, Italy in October 2019. Key areas of capacity were:

  • TRI Monitoring framework, Bonn Challenge Barometer;
  • Open Foris Initiative and its tools;
  • Collect Earth and Sepal;
  • Ex Act (EX-Ante Carbon Balance tool);
  • Mobilizing finance towards FLR; and
  • The Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM).

TRI projects are collaborating to ensure targeted counties comply with existing legislation regarding Forest and Landscape Restoration (FLR) and will address any identified policy gaps to ensure that FLR is an integral part of the legal and policy framework, which will ensure the sustainability of project activities since this framework will continue in the long term.

The two projects closely involve relevant local stakeholders to ensure ownership to continue implementing FLR in the long term by including communities in the assessment of land degradation in the targeted sites through participatory mapping. The team leader Paul Gacheru, Nature Kenya, concluded: “The Mapathon process was very useful to us in Nature Kenya. It opened the world of open access GIS tools which can be used to assess restoration change in our target landscapes. These tools are easy to use and rely on stakeholder inclusivity in the assessment process. This legitimizes the results we recorded. We intend to replicate these lessons in our Tana River Delta TRI program.”

For more information contact: [email protected]

Patrick Mugi (FAO) and Paul Gacheru (Nature Kenya)