Global Forest Watch (GFW), an interactive online forest monitoring and alert system led by WRI, is used around the world to better manage forests. For example, GFW enabled civil society organizations to work with local stakeholders in Uganda and Nicaragua to document and report illegal practices in order to protect local forests and community rights.

The Challenge

For decades, local stakeholders around the world have tried to monitor forests with often outdated, low-resolution, and hard-to-access maps and data. In Uganda, for example, the National Forestry Authority (NFA) has struggled to pinpoint illegal deforestation within the 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres) of forest reserves it manages. In Nicaragua, illegal cattle ranching has devastated large expanses of forest, threatening the security and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and depleting wildlife habitat.

WRI’s Role

Global Forest Watch (GFW), created by a partnership of over 90 organizations and led by WRI, allows anyone with an Internet connection or mobile device to monitor forests in near-real-time with unprecedented precision using satellite data. GFW collaborates with over 100 civil society organizations globally to generate evidence, raise public awareness, and improve forest management. GFW supports these partners through small grants, data sharing, and technical training and support, including helping to adapt GFW to meet their needs.

In Uganda, GFW partnered with the Jane Goodall Institute, Google, and NFA forest rangers to develop Forest Watcher, an application designed specifically for the rangers and drawing on GFW data. Forest Watcher allows rangers to use smartphones and tablets offline for on-the-ground monitoring and verification of deforestation alerts. In Nicaragua, GFW worked with Global Wildlife Conservation and the Rama and Kriol communities to establish an indigenous forest ranger program that uses GFW to monitor the forests on which they depend.

The Outcome

Civil society organizations around the world are using data from GFW to protect forests and community forest rights and to drive policy change. Uganda’s NFA has used Forest Watcher to identify and prosecute illegal loggers, and GFW is now adapting the app for use worldwide. The Nicaraguan rangers have used GFW to identify and report illegal deforestation and encroachment by ranchers. Local authorities have returned the land to the community.

These examples provide a snapshot of GFW’s reach. Governments and companies around the world also use GFW to better manage forests. More than a million unique users have accessed the platform since its launch in 2014, and users continue to report a diverse range of changes it has enabled.