Gwendolyn Smith Ph.D., a nature conservationist and conflict resolution specialist in Suriname, founder and chairman of Green Growth Suriname has launched a mobile app on deforestation and forest degradation.
“We soft launched this app last year in Suriname to engage citizens in gathering data on deforestation and forest degradation,” said Smith.
“It is developed to help our governments to get on-the-ground data about deforestation and forest degradation. This extra data can help detect illegal activity, but also serve as a ground-truing tool for national forest monitoring efforts,” said the scientist.
Smith, a Dutch born, naturalized Surinamese, said the app is groundbreaking because it is a simple and straightforward app that does not need any scientific training to use.
De Green Growth Forests app, a tool for citizen scientist to help identify areas of deforestation in the region is made with simple pictures to identify logging activities by boat, or road and has a function to learn and identify tree species. All people in the Guyana shield, from middle schoolchildren to loggers, can use this app, according to Smith.
Guyana and Suriname have challenges of incomplete datasets, scattered results and lengthy processes between indicators and reaction, as a result, target policy and academic research is hindered.
With the Green Growth Forests app everyone could participate in data collection in Guyana and Suriname. All data is made available in real time via the app. Non-users could access the collected data via the website: in English and Dutch https://app.greengrowthsuriname.org
“We have tested this app during COVID-19 and have found it to give useful information to supply the forest authority in Suriname. The plan is to build a community in 2021 by creating fun events where citizens can gather data and learn and become part of science, said Smith, a Conflict Resolution Specialist and Trainer.
Inviting everyone to use the app, Dr. Smith who has a strong passion for supporting local communities in their journey to reach sustainable development, has over twenty years of field experience, and has worked in Ecuador and Colombia.
The Florida-based, conservationist said the data is verified by forestry experts and is free for use as it is uploaded regularly in a excel format on the website. This website also provides a map of the gathered data in Guyana and Suriname so far.
“I hope this may be useful for your efforts to keep our Guyana-shield forests intact,” said Smith who has learned that local communities have different ideas about development than the organizations, who are giving development assistance, adding, “these conflicting perspectives fascinate me.”
“My scientific inquiry is founded on the principles of conflict resolution because I believe that conflicting perspectives are the cause of many problems in sustainable development.
“My work concentrates on helping both sides of the conflict: the local communities receiving development assistance and the businesses and organizations giving the development assistance,” according to her personal website gwendolynsmith.org
To download the app, go to green growth forests in Google Play Store or Apple store.