Assistance in smallholder project development

ForestSense has gained over 8 years of experience in building projects with smallholders and farmer communities. We successfully assisted a number of smallholder projects on the road towards a more sustainable landuse approach using innovative financing schemes with front running companies on sustainability. ForestSense provide assistance in designing and building smallholder reforestation, -agriculture and -agroforestry projects, most often with a positive impact on climate, biodiversity and soil. We carry out this work in close collaboration with local partner organisations and ProClimate, a fund and implementing organization based in the Netherlands.

Please have a look at our project portfolio page. Examples of successful projects that we assisted in recent years are the Sierra Piura Reforestation project in Peru and the Sustainable Smallholder Plantations project in Nicaragua. We are also involved in the development of a smallholder coffee project in Kenya and Tanzania, were a reduced carbon footprinting strategy is implemented with respectively the GoldStandard requirements and the guidelines of the Product Category Rules (PCR’s) for Green Coffee. Furthermore, we assist a shade tree planting project in Peru with smallholder coffee farmers, that is currently being certified for the carbon market. In Nicaragua ForestSense is now developing an integrated approach for a chocolate and honey forest, were smallholder forest plantations are combined with the production of high quality honey and fine flavor cocoa. One of the most technically innovative projects that ForestSense is assisting is the DACAPI project, where wet rice fields are converted to shaded cacoa. This Climate Smart Agriculture project with smallholder rice farmers is a pilot project for the new Goldstandard Agriculture standard, using the web reporting portal ‘FieldMessenger’ for the baseline mapping and monitoring of the project.

Field monitoring with mobile technology

Smallholder projects often involve thousands of farmers that need to be monitored on a regular basis, specifically if they claim compliance with a certification scheme. In recent years, the information need has increased, mainly by demanding certification standards, financial stakeholders and markets. When thousands of smallholders are involved, this requires efficient monitoring tools that enable efficient and accurate field data collection. The developments in mobile technology and accessibility to this technology for development countries has made this possible.

ForestSense assists projects in the implementation of efficient monitoring systems, using innovative and robust mobile technology. We assist organizations in the realization of their information need and translate this into a field form design and work methodology. Most of the projects that we assist are now using electronic tablets or mobile phones for their data collection. After the field data is collected the field technician can directly upload the data with a wifi connection to a secured cloud environment, where it is accessible to all account holders world wide. This technology works much more efficient for the field technicians (no need of digitization of paper field forms) and is much more transparent to project stakeholders. ForestSense very much supports open source software above commercial software for smallholder projects. The monitoring software we use is open source, cheap to implement and, very important: open-box. By doing so projects maintain full control and ownership of their database, guaranteed, also in the long term.

Field data reporting webportal

When field data is collected with mobile devices (electronic tablets or smart phones) and stored in a cloud environment, the data is still raw data that makes no sense to decision makers. For decision making this raw data must first be processed into meaningful information. ForestSense has developed a webportal called ‘FieldMessenger’. FieldMessenger processes raw cloud data on-the-fly into meaningful information that can be viewed directly by decision makers. FieldMessenger makes laborious processing of excel sheets into statistical information unnecessary. Projects statistics, graphs, gps-locations, photos, story telling; they are all generated on the fly from the raw cloud data. Projects only need to worry about collecting their field data with electronic tablets while FieldMessenger takes care of the automated data processing. Much more transparent and efficient.

We want to develop FieldMessenger on a ‘not-for-profit’ basis enabling projects to collect their field data at very minimal costs and -if desired- disclose their data with FieldMessenger. We have several projects on the list for using FieldMessenger. Feel free to contact us for questions and have a look at the first project that is supported by FieldMessenger (DACAPI, Peru):

GIS & Remote Sensing services

With increasing demand for transparency about project impact and need for efficient project management, mapping has become more important for land based projects in the last decade.  ForestSense elaborates map products for baseline studies and project monitoring with GIS and Remote Sensing technology. All our products comply with international certification accuracy requirements. We make use of open source technology for the elaboration of our products and have established partnerships with Sarvision, a renowned Remote Sensing company on radar technology. With this partnership, ForestSense is able to deliver the full set of spatial products and services that are needed for large scale smallholder projects.

Assistance in carbon certification

ForestSense provides assistance to projects interested in carbon certification. We support project partners & producer organizations from the start to end in the certification process. A regular carbon certification process starts with a feasibility study. In this stage we assist the local (producer) organization in the design of the project and check whether the project complies to all carbon certification requirements. Contract design and a thorough and realistic financial assessment are part of our assessment. The objective is to provide clarity toward the project developer and project financiers about the financial feasibility and profitability of a project. When a project is technically, legally and financially feasible, we assist projects in the implementation and the development of a full PDD (necessary for carbon certification).

Most often, the work does not end after the elaboration of a PDD. We support producer organizations & local partners also during the certification process by external auditors. When the project is successfully certified the most crucial period is just beginning for a smallholder project,  involving hundreds/thousands of farmers with demanding certification requirements. So aftercare is important. This means that ForestSense also assists producer organizations in setting up their carbon account, establishing market linkage (finding buyers), implementing management- and working procedures and setting up their project monitoring system.  We preferably stop when the project partner or producer organization is  capable to manage the project without further assistance.

Assistance in SFM certification

In carbon reforestation projects sustainable forest management (SFM) is an integrated part. Projects that are certified for carbon, also are required to integrate a sustainable forest management plan. Although certification for SFM is not required by carbon standards, it may be an objective for reforestation projects at the moment that the plantations deliver the first timber revenues.  Timber certified for SFM can deliver premium prices for the timber.

ForestSense also provides assistance to project that wish to become certified for SFM.

Financial Feasibility Assessments

ForestSense has carried out various feasibility assessments for smallholder projects related to agriculture, forestry and agroforestry. Part of a general feasibility assessment is a financial feasibility assessment. The practical experience we gained with actually implementing smallholder projects and our close work and relations with farmer communities, markets and businesses enables us to carry out sound financial calculations and develop realistic business models.

Assistance in certification standard development

Our colleagues are familiar with most commonly used international certification standards related to Sustainable Forest Management (e.g. PEFC and FSC) but also with standards issuing carbon sequestration (e.g. CarbonFix, GoldStandard, Plan Vivo, VCS, Fair Carbon). For various certification standards ForestSense has been involved in standard development and benchmarking, such as PEFC, GoldStandard and Fair Carbon.

Due to our experience with various certification standards and the practical experience we have implementing certification standards on project level, we are able to provide clients with a sound and realistic advise on which certification standard best suit their needs. In our advise we take into account: financial aspects of a certification standard, social acceptance of a standard, environmental aspects, socio-economic aspects, institutional aspects, user friendliness of a standard, etc. A proper benchmark of certification standards is essential for an efficient and successful project certification that meet the expectations of all project participants in the long term and prevent disappointments and unforeseen bottlenecks.