Monitoring Matters: Comparative Analysis of Innovative Approaches
Monitoring of natural resources and resource use by professional scientists is often costly and hard to sustain, especially in developing countries, where financial resources are limited. Moreover, such monitoring can be logistically and technically difficult and is often perceived to be irrelevant to resource managers and the local communities. Working with natural and social scientists in the Philippines, Tanzania, Nicaragua, Ghana, Madagascar, Denmark and other countries, this project has tested alternative monitoring approaches, where local people or local government staff are directly involved in data collection and interpretation. The results – the first of their kind from the tropics – suggest that, if properly designed and carefully tailored to local issues, such locally-based monitoring schemes can provide valuable data, cost-effectively and sustainably, while simultaneously building capacity among local constituents and prompting practical and effective management interventions. The project has not only led to a much improved understanding of the accuracy and management effectiveness of locally-based natural resource monitoring vis-a-vis scientist-executed monitoring. It has also enhanced the capacity of the many organisations, including the GEF and the World Bank, in realistic approaches to resource monitoring. In partnership with other organisations, the project has contributed to improving international policy development on climate change. Involvement of local stakeholders and indigenous people in forest monitoring is now part of the agreed post-2012 climate change regime on tropical forests (Reduced Emissions from Forest Degradation and Deforestation Plus, REDD+). Locally-based natural resource monitoring has moved to the forefront of discussions in this key international policy arena. Over a 2.5-year period, the project has compared locally-based and scientist-executed natural resource monitoring at 40 sites in five developing countries on three tropical continents. This fieldwork has generated 6004 parallel records of the same resource/resource use/threat at the same site and at the same time. This data-set is unparalleled in magnitude and provides a rich source of analyses. The project has resulted in dozens of papers in international journals incl. Science. Several countries and the EU have cited project findings in their formal responses on REDD+ to the UNFCCC. The journal Nature has described our research under the heading 'research highlights'. Some of the findings of the project have generated public interest and have been cited in popular media in many countries. Many of the papers are broad-scale analyses across the different countries, whereas others are specific to the individual study areas. Together, the publications are the most detailed studies of locally-based natural resource monitoring so far.