National Forest Monitoring

Country experiences with Open Foris Collect Mobile reveal the benefits and creative applications


Long gone are the days of paper-based field forms for data collection. No more muddy and torn pages with dubious handwriting; electronic data collection is now the norm in a broad range of field data collection exercises. Challenges associated with classic data collection prompted the prioritization of ease and efficiency during the development of the Open Foris (OF) suite of tools and platformsDeveloped by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to facilitate and streamline data collection in the context of National Forest Inventories, the Open Foris Collect Mobile, quickly proved to be very adaptable, suitable for applications in other sectors besides forestry 


In the past few years, projects around the world have utilized OF Collect Mobile to ensure quality data collection in a variety of contexts, including sustainable agriculture, livestock and dairy sectors. Regardless of the nature of a project, the phase of data collection is of paramount importance because it is the source of information which yields results and informed decisions. As also highlighted in the recent publication, Better data, better decisions: towards impactful forest monitoringhigh-quality data is required to produce meaningful results. Although paper forms should still be carried in the field in case of technical malfunction, electronic data entry offers a safe and efficient way of recording data and OF Collect Mobile was designed exactly for this purpose.  


Collect Mobile is fully integrated with all other free and open-source software in the Open Foris suite for data management, analysis and reporting. It offers fast, intuitive and flexible data collection for field-based surveys and can handle complex hierarchical data structures and built-in validation rules to improve data quality. Downloadable for free from Google PlayCollect Mobile handles large lists of species or other types of data and supports geo-location through embedded GPS.  


Many countries have and continue to benefit from Collect Mobile and other OF tools and platforms Since 2016, the OF tools have seen 30 000 downloads. They are used in over 180 countries around the world and have been incorporated into the forest monitoring systems of 44 countries  


“The Open Foris suite, including Collect Mobile, enable simple, efficient and comprehensive data collection, analysis, management and dissemination,” explained Julian Fox, Team Leader of the National Forest Monitoring in the FAO Forestry Division. “With this better data, countries are able to progress sustainable forest and agriculture systems. 


Successes using OF Collect Mobile 


Last weekthe FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific hosted a technical seminar to promote use of the OF Collect Mobile tools in the regionGeared towards professionals in the forestry and agri-food system sectors, the seminar revealed many practical applications of OF Collect Mobile through the lens of country case studies. With this seminar, technical experts provided an overview of the Open Foris tools and platforms and shared experiences using Collect Mobile in Central Asia, Myanmar and Bangladesh.  


Takayuki Hagiwara, the Regional Programme Leader of FAO RAP, introduced the webinar, highlighting the many innovative uses of the Open Foris suite of tools, and encouraged countries to explore various possibilities of their creative utilization. He also welcomed the organization of other similar webinars and trainings on OF Collect Mobile and the other OF tools. 


According to Khine Zaw Wynn, National Consultant within the Myanmar National Forestry Inventory, OF Collect Mobile has facilitated the collection and management of field data in Myanmar’s forestry sector. With this tool, efforts have expanded to a nationwide field campaign assessing the country’s forest status. While conducting its NFI, Myanmar created electronic data forms with OF Collect Survey Designer, which allow for easy and efficient data analysisMr Wynn explained that once forms are uploaded to OF Collect Mobile, it is “very easy to move or navigate from one application to another,” and this format allows for the quick identification of “errors, such as raw or missing data.”  Mr Wynn described the general process of using Open Foris to create Myanmar’s NFI, starting from pre-assessment of NFI clusters, to data collection with OF Collect Mobile, uploading the data to a central database, data cleansing and storage and finally data analysis and reporting, which integrates a number of different tools, including OF Calc, R-studio, Saiku and Excel  


In Bangladesh, OF Collect Mobile has enabled the development of sustainable agriculture and forestry projects, through the ability to digitally gather data. Mondal Falgoonee KumarProgramme Associate at FAO Bangladesh, spoke on the use of the tool in such projects, starting with the Bangladesh National Forest Inventory Project, which launched in 2016. Additional projects which employed OF Collect Mobile included the Landslide Inventory in Cox’s Bazar, in 2020, a Price Monitoring Survey during the COVID pandemic, and the Climate Smart Agriculture Assessment Survey in 2021. These diverse projects exemplify the flexibility and innovative uses of this tool. Mr Kumar explained “from our experiences in Bangladesh, we can say that Open Foris will provide you with the opportunity to get robust data with limited effort, because it resolves many issues from the field.” 


More broadly, Inna Punda, Economist, Agrobusiness Specialist at FAO Investment Centershowcased the successful application of OF Collect Mobile in Central Asiaproviding details of the functionalities, utilization and data management flow offered by the tool. Ms Punda’s presentation showed the versatility of the OF Collect Mobile app, revealing it had been applied to the dairy industry, particularly in Kazakhstan where it helped small-holder farmers adhere to rising industry standards and remain part of the dairy supply chain. With the tool, surveys and data collection provided information regarding milk output, procurement, supply structure, number of suppliers, numbers of cows and productivity across villages. Ms Punda praised the OF Collect Mobile tool, describing it as extremely “flexible and powerful.” She further described it as source of important information stating, “at the FAO Investment Center we believe that conditions for inclusiveness and resilience and growth for smallholders are really based on accurate data.” 


Data for improved forest monitoring  


With the importance of forests in mitigating climate change now widely recognised, countries around the world are stepping up measures to protect, conserve and restore their forests. Included in these efforts are the development of national forest inventories (NFIs) and national forest monitoring systems (NFMS), both of which require thorough and consistent data collectionThe Open Foris suite of tools helps countries do just this, through measurement, monitoring and reporting on forests and land cover and use. Sound data enables the establishment of greenhouse gas inventories and the production of Forest Reference Emission Levels reports for REDD+ 


As important carbon sinks, the preservation and restoration of forests can play a large role in addressing climate change, but forests also impact the lives of billions of people in other ways. Forests are sources of food, medicine, fuel and other important products and provide a livelihood to many. The use of OF tools, such as Collect Mobile, supports sustainable forest management, preserving the environment and ways of life of people worldwide. Technical seminars, like the one recently hosted by FAO, aim to spread knowledge of these tools, increase dialogue among countries who use them and find ways to expand their use.  


For more information, please contact 


Marco Piazza 

Forestry Officer 

FAO Forestry Division

[email protected] 


Illias Animon  

Forestry Officer 

FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific