The Ghanian government is partnering with Ecometrica, an Edinburgh-based technology firm, whose mapping platform helps farmers to source sustainable farm produce. The partnership sees the Forestry Commission of Ghana (FGC) adopt the Ecometrica mapping platform in its production and delivery of high quality maps and forest monitoring information, which are at the heart of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative Frameworks for Action (CFI), assented to by Ghana and the Ivory Coast at the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference.
Ecometrica, founded in 2008 by executive chairman Dr Richard Tipper, chief executive Gary Davis and chief product officer Bertrand Revenaz, and backed by a team of experts, has built an unrivalled reputation in the sphere of environmental sustainability accounting and reporting. Ecometrica uses drones to create the maps which show which areas have been worst hit by deforestation which in turn encourages local efforts at land stewardship.
Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, Chief Executive of FGC, said that making timely information accessible to all stakeholders was critical to the future success of the CFI, sustainable forest management and obtaining reliable information for international forest monitoring obligations in Ghana.
“The Ecometrica Platform will provide access to essential mapping and monitoring information to cocoa industry, stakeholders and national institutions involved in the CFI, to ensure compliance with legal and voluntary commitments”, said Afriyie.
Ecometrica has been supporting the FGC to improve its monitoring and mapping to determine the effects of cocoa farming on forests for several years. This new agreement ensures that the collaboration will continue beyond the life of the project funding.
According to Dr Tipper, “this is a landmark step in our plans for Ghana and important development in ensuring sustainability beyond 2020. Significantly, this will also create a long-term revenue stream for the Commission, as we will also distribute the maps that have been created by the Commission. This will help make its commitment to high-quality mapping and monitoring of cocoa farms and forests self-sustaining.”
Sarah Middlemiss, space programme manager at Ecometrica, who has led the Forests 2020 project for the company, said accurate and readily available maps would be essential to ensure the success of the initiative.
“This agreement ensures the tools and methods developed through Forests 2020 will be widely adopted and become the national standard in Ghana,” Middlemiss said. “For the companies involved, that gives them the security of monitoring their supply chains through a state-of-the-art system that is guaranteed by a national government.”
Cocoa buyers need to be able to accurately assess the impact of their efforts to combat deforestation in their supply chains, and this agreement will provide commercial access to accurate and regularly updated maps. Because cocoa is a shade-loving crop and can grow under forest canopy, other available methods to map the spread of cocoa farming had proven ineffective. Experts believe Ghana’s booming cocoa industry, which makes it the country that supplies the second largest quantity of cocoa in the world, is under threat of land degradation as a result of indiscriminate illegal mining activities. Ghanaian authorities combine traditional data from population census, aerial technologies such as drones and satellite images to combat illegal mining. The authorities analyse satellite images of concession maps and vegetation areas in high-threat zones to spot galamsey activities. The use of data and satellite images in monitoring and cracking down illegal mining is one of the reasons why the sector is witnessing a high growth rate.
Forests 2020 is a major investment by the UK Space Agency, as part of the International Partnerships Programme ( IPP ), to help protect and restore up to 300 million hectares of tropical forests by improving forest monitoring in six partner countries through advanced uses of satellite data. IPP is a £30 million a year programme funded from the U.K government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). IPP uses satellite data to deliver measurable impact on developing and emerging economies, directly influencing 10 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Forest2020 is the largest project within IPP’s portfolio.
Jerry Chiemeke is an editor, writer and mental health advocate. His works have appeared in Bellanaija, True Nollywood Stories, Music In Africa and The Guardian, among others. Jerry is the winner of the 2017 Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Reviews. He is a Senior Editor at Space in Africa.