Over the last three years, FAO led the implementation of the ‘Building global capacity to increase transparency in the forest sector’ project (CBIT-Forest), with funding from the GEF.
The project boosted awareness of the importance of transparent and reliable data, as well as the steps needed to meet the requirements of the Enhanced Transparency Framework.
By Rocío Condor and Julian Fox, FAO
Open science and open data are becoming increasingly important tools for addressing global challenges such as forest and climate change. For example, the Forest Declaration, adopted in 2022 at the XV World Forestry Congress in Seoul, Republic of Korea, encourages wide uptake of technologies and mechanisms for the provision of and equitable access to accurate information on forests. As such, knowledge enables evidence-based decision making and drives positive forest and landscape changes.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) is working to promote the use of open science and open data in the forest sector. Over the last three years, FAO led the implementation of the ‘Building global capacity to increase transparency in the forest sector’ project (CBIT-Forest), with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The objective of the project was to strengthen institutional and technical capacities of developing countries in forest-related data collection, analysis, and dissemination processes, to meet the enhanced transparency requirements of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The CBIT-Forest project directly benefited 49 target countries, including seven pilot countries – Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Honduras, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Thailand, and Uganda, and indirectly, 187 countries and territories from the global network of the Global Forest Resources Assessment. The project boosted awareness of the importance of transparent and reliable data, as well as the steps needed to meet the requirements of the Enhanced Transparency Framework.
The project also focused on boosting transparency in forest data, and worked to improve the accuracy and accessibility of forest data to support sustainable forest management (SFM) and conservation efforts. One of the outcomes of the project is that the National Forest Institute (INAB) of Guatemala has made the metadata and microdata of its first National Forest Inventory openly available.
The use of open data through the development of national forest monitoring systems provides accurate and up-to-date information on forests, allowing for the development of evidence-based policies and actions. The project has contributed to the upgrade of the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) online reporting platform for accessing information related to the status and trends of more than 60 forest-related variables in 236 countries and territories in the period 1990-2020. The CBIT-Forest project also worked on improving the accuracy of forest data through the use of remote sensing technology, and on developing algorithms and models to improve the accuracy of forest cover data.
Another important aspect of the CBIT-Forest project is capacity building and training. The project contributed to promoting inclusive learning, which is key to better forest data, by giving an equal opportunity to access, contribute to, and benefit from transparency-related knowledge products to almost 10,000 individuals, of which 39% were women. The beneficiaries took advantage of knowledge exchanges and capacity-building activities offered in multiple languages. As a result, female participation was considered high for a predominately male-dominated field. Free self-paced courses were made available to the public in multiple languages, with digital badge certification in the FAO eLearning platform.
On 23 March 2022, FAO organized an international webinar, ‘Learning from experiences to increase forest data transparency for climate action,’ to inform about the results of the CBIT-Forest project. In October, the CBIT-Forest project was presented as part of a series of global webinars themed, ‘Embracing inclusiveness: key for forests and climate action,’ to share stories and empower diverse communities. The project was also highlighted during the Science-i Global Webinar (Globinar) Series 2022, ‘Empower the Under-Represented in Forest Science,’ and at an FAO webinar that presented the Food and Agriculture Microdata Catalogue (FAM). In addition, the project was presented at the XV World Forestry Congress and the World Forestry Week.
The success of the CBIT-Forest project is marked by its engagement of women and Indigenous Peoples and local communities, which helped to strengthen technical capacities of forest data collection and dissemination, particularly in targeted pilot countries.
A document titled, ‘Towards open and transparent forest data for climate action: Experiences and lessons learned,’ analyzes these initiatives and presents an important takeaway for forest monitoring professionals: the open exchange of data can save time on creating climate resilience and increasing the profitability of resources.
Open science and open data are essential tools for addressing the challenges of deforestation and forest degradation. By promoting the use of remote sensing technology and open data, FAO’s CBIT-Forest project is helping to improve the accuracy and accessibility of forest data. This, in turn, supports sustainable forest management and conservation efforts. The lessons learned and project recommendations will allow countries and individuals to continue learning and collaborating – continuing the momentum of CBIT-Forest.