9 August 2013

Congo-Brazzaville: Mapping the Congo

A new mobile software may help local communities in the region of Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, manage their natural resources and monitor logging activities in the forest.

The Extreme Citizen Science team at University College London travelled across the country to test the new software in the field, meet people who live in the forest and gather feedback.

Commercial logging can have an impact on farming communities, because it is difficult for the logging companies to keep track of local natural resources and respect them.

The international regulations on sustainable forestry are very detailed, but law enforcement remains an issue.The new app, designed for people who are not familiar with complex technology, allows farmers to collect information on their livelihoods, to record negotiations with logging company representatives and assess potential damage from industrial activity on their territory.

Users can describe objects and social interactions by clicking on specific icons, but they can also record voices and take pictures. When breaches of the regulations are reported, local NGOs intervene in support of the communities.

The projects still needs to overcome a number of technical challenges - for example the transmission of collected data in an environment where wireless connectivity is very poor. More funding is also needed to implement the idea on a large scale.

But the pilot project has been successful and people welcomed the ExCiteS team with interest. When asked if they would take part in future citizen science projects, the answer was an enthusiastic "yes".

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