Around Adzope, in the Mé region, trees frequently finish under the roaring blades of a chain saw. 95000 hectares of forest are depleted every year in Côte d'Ivoire, roughly the equivalent of 130000 football fields.This is one of the highest rates of deforestation in Africa.
In 2017, the « Mé Redd + » Project undertook to curb forest clearing, whilst improving the living conditions of the local farmers and population. « Mé Redd + » relies on GeoPoppy, an on-board Geographic Information System within a mini-server and a tablet, supported by AFD's Evaluation and Learning department, designed for tracking the evolution of cultivated and woodland areas.
La Mé includes the forests of Mabi-Yaya, 65000 hectares in total, where a tribe of chimpanzees in danger of extinction, currently resides. A local team made up of 18 staff members, is spread across seven villages, and focuses its attention in and around the forests. They belong to the NGO Nitidæ, which implements the « Mé Redd + » Project. They have a « zero deforestation » agriculture approach: farmers must be able to earn their living without clearing the surroundings; a careful balance between agricultural income and forestry related income.
By the end of 2019, the Nitidæ team expects to support 2250 households across 5000 hectares. Configured from open-source free software by INRA (National Institute for Agronomic Research), Geo Poppy allows the operators to collect large amounts of data directly on the ground with the beneficiaries. They simply have to go round the plot of land armed with a tablet and a portable mini-server. Mapping out the larger area will result in better understanding, improvement and protection of endangered spaces.
GeoPoppy is a complete, user-friendly and inexpensive data collection system. Hardware wise, the tool is composed of a mini-server (RaspberryPi), powered by an external battery, and connected to a tablet by Wi-Fi connection. Only open-source free software is used, especially for the database management (PostgreSQL) and the Geographic Information System (QGIS).
Once the initial installation technical material is acquired and configured, the use of GeoPoppy is free, without limited storage or a limited no of users. « Even if the Nitidæ project was particularly specific, we really wanted to use free software so that the tool could then easily be reused and replicated in other contexts and reused by other operators. Everything is published under the Creative Commons licence », explains Martin Noblecourt, project manager at CartONG, an NGO which has helped to adapt GeoPoppy to the needs of Nitidæ.
« Red+ » is the international program for « Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation », to which Côte d'Ivoire has dedicated itself since 2011.
On behalf of the French and Ivorian republics, the Ivorian ministry of environment or financial backers, such as the AFD, the use of a tool like GeoPoppy demonstrates « the aim of total data transparency and demonstrates the step by step development of the “Redd + La Mé” project ».
« In order to comprehensively assess this type of development, the precision and quality of data must be totally precise and reliable. This data is collected using a mobile platform (MDC), without the need for an internet connection on the ground », adds Martin Noblecourt, from CartONG.
Trailblazing for the new generation
Initially, GeoPoppy was designed by INRA to monitor poppy fields! Following its reworking, GeoPoppy could become the pioneer for a new generation of low cost digital tools, based on freeware, oriented towards project monitoring and evaluation. It adapts to any platform and operating system. « Everybody can use it, from the local community to the SME, in both urban and rural areas », confirms Denis Mea. This specific example in the Mé region can thus be replicated worldwide, in any given field.