The Rainforest Alliance’s Eco-Index honoured Taking Root with the award for best monitoring and evaluation this summer. Rainforest Alliance launched Eco-Index in 2001 to provide the conservation community with an easily accessible vehicle to share project data and reports, lessons learned, and best practices.
If you have ever been a part of turning sustainability concepts into action, from a simple ‘bike to work week’ campaign to creating sustainability reports for the Global Reporting Initiative standards, you know that having accurate data is key to the success of any initiative.
The Taking Root’s program in Nicaragua involves managing over 1.5 million trees planted on hundreds of farms across 17 different communities making thousands of payments to hundreds of farmers every year. Collecting data and monitoring the progress of reforestation on this scale can be challenging and expensive. Furthermore, existing methods traditionally used in the forest industry to track such information requires skills that may not be available in rural Nicaragua.
Taking Root’s Solution
To address these challenges Taking Root developed the Smallholder Carbon Project Information Management System (SCPIMS) so that the organization’s resources can fund its core mission: tackling climate change and poverty. The SCPIMS does not require highly specialized staff and allows producer organizations like Taking Root to benefit from professional forest carbon project information at a fraction of what it used to cost. The SCPIMS is designed to find, track, organize, monitor and communicate technical, financial and geospatial information. It is all in one system that was designed in-house to accurately track and communicate information for all of Taking Root’s stakeholders.
How it works
Community technicians are trained and equipped with camera and GPS-enabled tablets using the SCPIMS software. New farmers are added by creating and uploading ‘profiles’ with pictures of identification documents, proof of land tenure, and by geo-referencing areas to be reforested. Once connected to Wi-Fi, the SCPIMS automatically generates a personalized agreement between the farmer and the project that clearly states payment milestones and criteria. Furthermore, it generates geo-referenced monitoring points randomly located within the farmer’s farm so that the data collected will be statistically unbiased. Technicians return to each farm periodically to take measurements from the monitoring points. Using this data, the SCPIMS automatically analyzes and compiles the information to assess the results against agreed milestones. When the milestone is reached, the system creates a payment receipt that farmers sign when they receive the money, which is then uploaded into the system.
In addition to lowering project management costs, the SCPIMS plays an indispensable role creating timely information for project stakeholders. Board members and investors require transparent financial tracking. Project managers need timely project information on the ground to make informed decisions. Buyers and donors want quantified information on social and environmental co-benefits. Forest carbon standards require forest monitoring results and financial information on farmer payments. The SCPIMS produces tailored reports for each type of stakeholder in a matter of minutes, a process that normally takes months to produce.
One of these reports is the project’s Impact Indicators. Having access to such timely information allows project managers to see the impacts of their decisions and ensures continuous project improvement. For ‘buyers’, social and environmental impact indicators with spatial files can be shared through an interactive map, allowing them to discover new sources of value within projects. This highly effective method of tracking and sharing information is often and important factor for clients to continue their support.
Delivering timely, accurate information to our stakeholders is the core of what we do at Taking Root. Developing the SCPIMS is what has allowed the project to experience continued growth; we have reforested 10 times the land we did five years ago.
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