FLEG created an interactive online portal to gather all information available on Georgian forests
Imagine a place where you could find everything you needed to know about a country’s forest sector: what would it look like? It would probably have a map representing forest coverage and perhaps some other interesting visual data. It would also have a library with a selection of reports and studies about forest-related subjects, and some tools for learners.
Georgia no longer needs to dream about such place. The ENPI East Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Program (FLEG II) created the Forest Information Database which consists of two complementary parts: the Forest Resource Center – a unified system for forest-related information including publications and legal documents; and the Geo Forest Portal – an online platform with interactive maps dedicated to different topics concerning the Georgian forest sector.
“During the first phase of the Program (FLEG I), we created a very informative national website where we collected and produced a vast number of documents and data about forests and forest resources” said Marika Kavtarishvili, Country Program Coordinator for IUCN in Georgia, “Stakeholders expressed their appreciation for this precious mine of information. Therefore, in FLEG II, we decided to expand the website and devise a platform which could solve the issue of the availability, systematization, and optimization of forest-related data. This idea resulted in the development of the Geo Forest Portal”.
The portal allows public officials, businesses, NGOs, researchers, and the general public to find accurate, comprehensive, and well-organized information about the Georgian forestry sector.
“We reorganised the data to produce different thematic maps which we always keep up-to-date” said Mr Levan Natsvlishvili, IT specialist who collaborates with the FLEG team in carrying out this activity. “For example, we created maps about the degree of deforestation, the availability of firewood resources, and the spread of forest pests and diseases. Each map is an interactive display with Google base maps and several zoom levels, and it is very intuitive to use”.
The project goes beyond the creation of thematic maps. The added value of the portal is reflected in its useful information on the forest sector, including job opportunities, contacts of organizations and donors, relevant national and international legislation, publications, manuals, guidelines, best practices, and much more.
“The portal is constantly updated and the information flow enables the transfer of knowledge from the national – even international – level to the local one, and vice versa”, said Ms. Kavtarishvili, “This tool and the know-how needed to develop it are extremely useful for policy-makers who use the portal’s information to help make more informed decisions and then monitor the implementation of these decisions. This is why the Georgian Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MoENR) turned to us for help”.
In the months of June and July 2016, FLEG II held a series of trainings for officials from the MoENR, NFA (National Forestry Agency), and APA (Agency of Protected Areas) with the aim to introduce them to the systems of WebGIS (Geographic Information System Resource) and SDI (Spatial Data Infrastructure).
“These trainings were incredibly useful to improve the skills of our staff who use WebGIS applications on a daily basis” said Mr. Karlo Amirgulashvili, head of Biodiversity and Forest Policy Department of the MoENRP, “In addition, the World Resources Institute (WRI), together with the MoENRP, is implementing the Global Forest Watch (GFW) project with the goal to develop and establish the Forest and Land Use Information Decision Support (FLUIDS) web portal in Georgia. The trainings were fundamental also to acquire the necessary knowledge for the GFW. These tools play a key role in making effective policies, planning and prioritizing interventions and investments, and evaluating the outcomes”.
“Thanks to the training, I feel much more comfortable with using WebGIS” said Mr. Zura Shoshiashvili from the department of Forest maintenance and reforestation, NFA, “I learned how to process data and interpret these data the proper context. The GeoPortal will enhance the work of my forest management unit significantly”.
In order to expand and better utilize the knowledge on WebGIS among the MoENR’s staff, the FLEG IT expert is currently developing a manual in Georgian language that will be distributed to the authorities in the fall of 2016. This tool will further support the work of the MoENR, NFA and APA and will contribute to making sustainable forest management and governance more effective.