FAO: Practical steps to strengthen the legal timber trade on agenda at Rome meeting
Experts meeting in Rome this week are discussing timber import regulations and practical methods of ensuring that wood and wood products entering the European Union, the United States and Australia are from legal production.
The Timber Regulation Enforcement Exchange (TREE) meeting, organized by Forest Trends and Chatham House, is being hosted at FAO headquarters from April 5 to 7, 2017.
Among the many ideas to be discussed at the TREE event is the use of technology to track timber from the forest where the tree is felled to the port where it enters another country and on to the companies importing wood and wood products.
Jack Soh, a FAO consultant, will present the innovative work being done in Cameroon and Benin, with the assistance of the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme, on forest databases and bar-code tracking systems. Soh is a webmaster rather than a forester, but when he went to work for a wood processing company that manages almost 389 000 hectares of natural forest in Cameroon, he knew how to improve the company’s database of trees.
Information for the original database was collected in the forest where employees would note the location and details of individual trees. When the tree was felled, both the stump and the timber would be marked and the information recorded. The problem was that the forest was hundreds of kilometres from the office and it would be weeks and sometimes months before the information was finally typed into the database.
Soh created a web-based platform, which meant the information could be collected and input almost immediately and from anywhere. Employees go to the forest and, using GPS technology, locate each tree, note the details and then input them directly into the database from the field.
“It might be a couple of hours from the forest to the field office where the employee types it into the database. Now, it takes only a few hours instead of weeks and weeks,” said Soh.
The system automatically analyses the data and can generate reports immediately. A manager can now access the database from anywhere in the world, rather than only in the office in Cameroon. The Ministry of Forestry can go online and click on a map to see the location and all the known information about every tree in the forest.
The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme brought Soh together with the National Timber Office of Benin, which had been developing a tracking system using barcodes called ONATRACK.