On average, communities trained by the REDD+ project submit 50 formal reports about forest crimes per month to authorities based upon data captured through the SMART 7 application, according to the USAID Greening Prey Lang (GPL) Project.

Created through a UN initiative, the idea behind REDD+ is that Cambodia will be able to earn money by leaving its forests intact and that funding will come from corporations or governments purchasing carbon offset credits in lieu of lowering their own carbon emissions, but the intact status of the forests must be regularly monitored and verified.

SMART 7 is an advanced application that works as a tool for REDD+ project verification and monitoring. In principle, the application focuses on the management of patrols, data analysis and advanced reporting infographics, as well as sharing lessons and best practices between communities, local authorities and rangers throughout Cambodia.

“As REDD+ projects move towards implementation across the Prey Lang Extended Landscape (PLEL) they will require that the SMART reporting conducted by community organisations be acted upon by local authorities as a metric for successful REDD+ project implementation. Annual REDD+ project verification by third parties will be utilised to ensure compliance with the requirement of utilisation of SMART reporting,” the report said.

According to the GPL, these reports are to ensure the transparency of community-based organisation activities and accountability by local authorities to act on community complaints. The reports on forest crime offenses are also presented at monthly commune council meeting too.

In the last few months, GPL and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia provided advanced user training on the SMART 7 application to 36 conservation technology specialists in Siem Reap province. Participants came from seven conservation organisations that work in 14 Cambodian protected areas.

These individuals work closely with community-based organisations and the Ministry of Environment staff to utilise SMART and other conservation technology tools to monitor wildlife, conduct forest patrols and report on protected area management across the Kingdom.

Samet Sreyva, representative of the Kuoy Indigenous Community in Chrach village and commune of Preah Vihear province’s Chey Sen district, is currently working for GPL educating community members about REDD+.

She said that the technical skills training on using the SMART application for the protection of natural resources was crucial for the present and the future.

“The Advanced SMART application allows us to report and record specific data from crime locations to compile a specific report for the provincial Department of Environment to take action quickly,” she said.

Kim Nong, general director of the ministry’s General Department for Natural Conservation, told The Post that the participation of local communities in providing specific reports of natural resource crimes is an important contribution to the protection and conservation of natural resources in Cambodia.

“Through the involvement of partner organisations, we have provided a wide range of skills training to rangers and local communities, including the skills of patrolling, investigating and cracking down on crime, as well as crime reports by using reporting tools and the monitoring of natural resource management with the SMART application,” she said.

SMART provides a framework for the day-to-day management of protected areas, community forests and community protected areas. 45 communities have been trained on the use of SMART to conduct and report on their community forest patrols through USAID’s GPL programme.

Community patrol data is provided to their provincial Department of Environment staff through monthly reporting and is directly integrated into the Protected Area Monitoring Platform (PAMP) through SMART Connect.