Protected areas are the cornerstones of biodiversity and are at the frontline of efforts to protect species and habitats from the rapidly growing number of threats to their survival. The ability of protected areas to respond efficiently to threats such as wildlife poaching requires information on where these threats are occurring, and adequate tools in place with which to address them.
Results based management
In response to the recognition that traditional tools, technologies and resources are not stemming the illegal killing and trading of endangered species – and to fight the resulting loss of threatened and highly valued biodiversity – a broad partnership of conservation organizations launched the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool Approach (SMART) in 2011, to improve more effective patrolling, law enforcement and biodiversity conservation. The closed circle of SMART implementation, called “results-based management”, allows management decisions to be informed by real results.
In Viet Nam, traditional patrolling bodies mainly focus on observing, verifying, monitoring and checking forest fires and illegal activities (e.g. forest encroachment, illegal logging and hunting) on set patrolling routes. All information and data are recorded and saved in a patrolling diary at forest stations, and reported to the manager of the protected area/national park (PA/NP) and forest station orally. Moreover, patrols are carried out without supporting equipment such as GPS, binoculars, or cameras. These issues pose some key challenges, as they influence the quality and accuracy of information and data on patrolling routes, as well as biodiversity monitoring in the PA/NP. It means managers can end up making decisions that are hindered by lack of real information relating to the current situations in their PA/NP. Furthermore, the PA/NP manager has no way to ensure that forest rangers are following their assigned patrolling routes or completing assigned missions as planned instead of just reporting completed missions with falsified information. This affects the management and protection of forest resources as well as punishment of illegal activities and violence that may occur in the PA/NP management area.
SMART was launched in Viet Nam in early 2013 in order to promote patrolling quality and quality data collection on forest resources and biodiversity conservation. GIZ, in cooperation with the Department of Natural Conservation (DONC) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), initially piloted SMART in the three protected areas of Bai Tu Long National Park in the North, Pu Luong Protected Area in central Viet Nam, and Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park in the South, representing the three geographic regions of Viet Nam. After this implementation period, authorities involved in the pilot project concluded that SMART is useful and easy to implement, and was highly appreciated by the national park and protected area managers. Since then, the MARD/GIZ project “Programme on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Forest Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Viet Nam” continued its support in SMART implementation in seven PAs/NPs. The objective is to confirm the effectiveness of the software in the field before officially rolling it out in the whole country, and to provide training of trainers (TOTs) who in turn will directly train the forest rangers to apply SMART in PAs/NPs.
Benefits of SMART in Viet Nam
- Better patrolling: Managers of Protected Areas (PA) receive information from ranger patrols on PA violations and observations of endangered species, enabling them to improve patrolling plans. Using GPS, SMART records all of the patrolling routes, as well as traces of animals (e.g. footprints, scratches, stosols) and signals of abusive human activities like encroachment, forest fires, traps, camps or NTFP collection. Along with the recorded GPS waypoints, SMART uses cameras to record relevant images from the field. All recorded data and pictures are entered into SMART software, analyzed and posted on the map. These results allow PA/NP managers to define areas where rare or endangered species are being threatened and use this information to develop more effective monthly patrolling plans based on the PA/NP’s real conditions.
- Transparent evaluation of staff performance: Managers of PAs receive information on the patrols performed by staff and can design incentive mechanisms accordingly. This means that managers can determine factors such as the number of kilometers patrolled, destinations reached and the number of rangers needed to carry out patrolling month-to-month. Based on specific SMART data, managers can assess staff performance in completing planned missions as well as keep up-to-date information on current PA/NP situations as they arise. Managers have could find this useful in rewarding the most effective staff in yearly meetings.
- Accurate forest information: Information can be complied at the central level and integrated into existing forest and biodiversity databases in order to provide an effective information database to inform national policy makers when rolling out practices across the whole PA system.
Lessons learnt in Viet Nam
- Support from PA Managers is essential: Getting support for SMART implementation was achieved by promoting the benefits of SMART for assessing staff performance.
- SMART is easily implemented by PAs in Viet Nam as:
- Its cost is low. The SMART program is free of charge and the equipment required is inexpensive and readily available. It is therefore not very difficult for PAs to invest in the program and equipment;
- It is easy to learn. SMART resembles popular web-based software. With support from SMART coaches, PA staff gained the necessary knowledge and skills very quickly; and
- Tasks integrate easily. Data collection tasks easily integrate into rangers’ routine patrolling. However, it is worth noting that significant human resources are required at the data entry level.
- Focal point for monitoring and implementation at the national level: A full-time staff member for SMART at the national level is needed to ensure faster introduction, training and monitoring of SMART implementation in the PA/NP system, and also to communicate with the SMART developer on the SMART implementation process in Viet Nam and execute software update information.
The Way Forward
- Coach PA manager to use the data collected to improve patrolling plans.
- Train more coaches to make support available in the three main regions of the country.
- Coordinate with other organizations such as WWF, FFI, FZS in the areas of forest and biodiversity conservation in Viet Nam to promote SMART adoption.
- Expand SMART to more PAs in order to provide sufficient information and data about forest resources and biodiversity for national policy makers to roll out similar programmes across the whole PA system and centralized forest information system (FORMIS).
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