ict in natural resources management

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Understanding the role ICT can play in natural resource monitoring and management.....

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TOOL FOR SUSTAINABLITY ASSESSMENT TWO

USING GPS MOBILE HAND-HELD COMPUTERS AND GIS TOOLS TO MONITOR AND MANAGE THE AFI MOUNTAIN WILDLIFE SANCTUARY OF BOJE DISTRICT, CROSS RIVER STATE, NIGERIA: AN E-READINESS ASSESSMENT REPORT

BY

UCHE OKPARA

(B.Agric (Nigeria); m.sc (Greenwich)Department of Agricultural EconomicsUniversity of NigeriaEXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Afi Conservation Partners are in charge of the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary (AMWS) Conservation Project within the Boje District. They are initiating two flexible, portable and user-friendly technologies that allow local users with low literacy levels to record GPS referenced natural resource related data using touch-screen hand-held computers. Data collated would be uploaded on a GIS platform for mapping and analysis and for subsequent use in managing the biodiversity assets of the Sanctuary. These two ICTs (that is, GPS mobile hand-held computers and GIS tools) have been used in Cameroon and Congo Brazzaville to monitor and manage natural resources of national importance. Their use in the AMWS project is expected to address the serious human and environmental threats facing the enormous natural resource base of the Sanctuary. But how e-ready is Boje District to allow the full penetration and use of these technologies? What type of environment does the District offer in terms of ICT use generally? How e-ready are the stakeholders to use these technologies? What are the actual use and benefits of these technologies? Using a synthesised combination of the e-readiness methodologies proposed by the Harvard Universitys Center for International Development (CID), the Computer Systems Policy Projects (CSPP) Readiness Guide for Living in the Networked-World and the Networked Readiness Index (NRI) in the Global Information Technology Report, the above e-readiness questions were adequately answered in this report. Evidence from this study revealed that the District is generally not e-ready going by its remote location, lack of ICT infrastructure and the poor socio-economic status of the local populace. Mobile telecommunication may have penetrated the area but internet access is non-existent except at the local district forestry office managed by the Afi Partners. The Afi Conservation Partners are e-ready to use the technologies but they face the enormous challenge of carrying the local communities along. The people have to be trained and motivated to take leverage of the ICT potentials. ICT infrastructure and enough funding are required to ensure sustainable use of the technologies for monitoring and managing the resources of the AMWS. 1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 General OverviewThe use and promotion of ICTs as instruments for environmental monitoring and management and the sustainable use of natural resources are critical issues of global concern today (ITU, 2008). ICTs application for natural resource monitoring and management fall under the category known as e-environment and e-agriculture (Clark, 2006). ICTs are essential to our understanding of the distribution of natural resources and our ability to deal with environmental changes. The rapid diffusion of advanced broadband internet networks and deployment of web-based services are transforming the way natural resource studies, research and decision-making are carried out globally. Today, new technologies such as geographical information system (GIS), remote sensing and global positioning systems (GPS) alongside mobile telephone technologies have become the most important tools supporting natural resource monitoring, protection and management projects (ITU, 2008; Carmen et al., 2010).However, several rural communities whose livelihoods revolve around the resources of nature do not have the capacity to take advantage of these technologies. This is the case with most developing countries in Africa and Asia (Obijiofor et al., 2005). In Nigeria for example, the ICT sector has been growing tremendously since the 1999 deregulation of the sector by the Nigerian government. Mobile telecommunication lines increased from 500,000 lines to an unprecedented 10 million lines between 2003 and 2008 (NDG, 2008). Telecommunication and allied services such as internet are now accessible in most big cities. The vast majority of private internet users access the internet through internet cafes while others do so through dial-up facilities, and a small percentage made up of mostly corporate bodies and government officials through VSAT link-up provided by Internet Service Providers (Gerrard et al., 2009).ICT penetration is high in Cross River States urban areas, but the situation in rural areas is a big concern (Akinsola et al., 2005). Among the rural populace, internet access is practically non-existent; most people do not know what it is (NDG, 2008). Early ICTs like radio and television broadcasting, as well as the print media are the effective means to reach the rural people and pass across useful information. Poverty, illiteracy and other socio-economic constraint limit the wide spread of ICTs in rural communities. Awareness of ICT use in natural resource monitoring and management is also generally low (ITU, 2008).E-readiness assessment has become a useful tool to evaluate the breadth and depth of ICT penetration in an area, especially in terms of availability and accessibility of ICT infrastructure for natural resource monitoring and management among other related issues of concern (Dutta et al., 2003). This report is therefore designed with the main objective of assessing the state of ICT infrastructure in Boje Local District in terms of the readiness of the rural populace, forestry officials, conservation groups and relevant stakeholders within the district to use GPS mobile hand-held computers and GIS (Google EarthTM or ESRIs ArcView) technologies to monitor and manage resources of the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary (AMWS) and plan for future development of the Sanctuary. These ICT types have been identified by the Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and Helveta Limited as the best tools for monitoring and protecting the AMWS, and they have been introduced to the Afi Conservation Partners (FFI, 2007). This report, in other words, sought to find out how prepared the Boje District is to use these two technologies through an e-readiness assessment study.1.2 Background on the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary Conservation ProjectThe AMWS is located at the northern part of Cross River State, Nigeria, within the rainforest block in Boje District, in the border region of southeast Nigeria and southwest Cameroon (within Lat. 60 N and Long. 80 E) (FAO, 2009). This region is an international biodiversity hotspot and was identified as one of West Africas three deforestation hotspots (Darwin Initiative, 2004). The Sanctuary is home to the Cross River Gorillas (Gorrilla gorilla diehli) recognised as the rarest and most endangered sub-species of gorillas with a total population of about 250 and covering an area of over 8,500 hectares (Imong et al., 2008). It is also inhabited by the most endangered sub-species of Chimpanzees in West Africa and the drills.

Figure 1: Map of the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary (North) location in Boje DistrictSource: http://www.berggorilla.de/english/gjournal/crossr.htmlThe Afi mountain was gazetted as a wildlife sanctuary in 2000 specifically for the conservation of gorillas and it is managed by the Cross River State Forest Commission (CRSFC), with support from a partnership of conservation NGOs made up of the Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Pandrillus Foundation (Dunn, 2005). The local economy around the Sanctuary is based upon agriculture and locally available natural resources. Farming and hunting are major occupations of the fairly large local population.The AMWS conservation project was born out of the need to stop the multi-faceted, human-induced threats (poaching, agricultural encroachment and bush fire) that beset the survival of the gorillas and other species, as well as the desire to protect the biodiversity integrity of the natural resources on which indigenous communities depend (FFI, 2007). The project, known as the Multi-stakeholder Forest Monitoring Scheme, has been on since 2007. It is expected to aid previous conservation works at Afi and help initiate the use of ICTs to create accurate natural resource data about the area which will be used for sustainable management of the Wildlife Sanctuary (Pandrillus Foundation, 2008).

Figure 2: Afi Mountain Canopy Walkways built for touristsSource: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=890206 (copied from the original source which is pandrillus.org).1.3 Use of GPS Mobile Hand-held Computers and GIS technologies in AMWS

With the recognition of the benefits of ICTs in natural resource monitoring and management, the Afi Conservation Partners are creating an information management system that incorporates the use of hand-held computers enabled with GPS receivers, along side GIS tools (for data output) to gather accurate natural resource data for the area and create a GPS-mapped forest resource inventory (depicting legal and illegal natural resource use, tree and animal distribution and species details among others) (T4CD, 2006). The approach is expected to support the sustainable management of the Wildlife Sanctuary by transforming the capacity of local stakeholders and communities to monitor and protect the natural resources in the area. This innovation is situated within the Helvetas CI EarthTM Technology Suite (FFI, 2007).

Figure 3: Example of Forest Community Monitoring in Cameroun (similar innovation is

being introduced in the AMWS)

Source: Helveta (2009).2. E-READINESS ASSESSMENT

2.1 Concept and ApproachThis assessment is