MapHubs Feronia: the first public plantation-level monitoring system in Africa
A long and winding road to collaboration
Mapping oil palm plantations began with a twenty hour detour through the rainforest. In May 2014, I was with our Moabi field team, testing smartphone mapping tools with a local indigenous peoples’ organization in Equateur Province, DRC. As we were about to set off from the provincial capital of Mbandaka, we agreed to give a local chief a ride to Ingende. We assumed this was on our way.
After an 8 hour detour through the rainforest, one flat tire and one pygmy village celebration later, we arrived at a river port. We discovered the port was located inside an oil palm plantation owned by Feronia — a Canadian-registered agriculture company operating in DRC. Being mappers, we turned on our GPS units and began mapping the plantation. We then integrated the points with our Moabi database and made the first public maps.
These initial maps opened discussion between Feronia and Moabi, which lead to a data sharing agreement. We helped Feronia digitize their concession boundaries and in exchange, Feronia allowed us to post them on Moabi DRC.
From maps to monitoring
With support from the Commonwealth Development Corporation — a Feronia investor- we set up a MapHubs portal (feronia.maphubs.com), which would provides access to Feronia’s concession and safeguard data as well as regular deforestation reporting.
MapHubs Feronia provides all stakeholders with access to the company’s land use data, including concession and plantation boundaries, social investments such as health clinics and schools, infrastructure including roads. It also contains information on overlapping land use such as logging concessions, REDD+ projects, protected areas, and other agriculture plantations in the area.
“MapHubs helps us identify degradation hotspots around Feronia’s concessions and make maps to communicate landscape concerns to our investors.” — Hugues Ekani, Director of Social and Environmental Responsibility for Feronia
MapHubs Feronia provides the company and its stakeholders with regular report on deforestation within its three concessions. It achieves this in three simple steps.
Step 1 — Establishing a baseline
Sentinel-2 image of Yaligimba in Feronia MapHubs
We loaded recent cloud-free Sentinel-2 images, and using MapHubs mapping tools, we traced the forest areas inside each concession. This sets a baseline for monitoring and avoids the limitations.
Step 2 — Monthly Monitoring
With our Forest Report module, MapHubs Feronia receives weekly deforestation alerts for its remaining forest areas using University of Maryland’s GLAD alerts. This indicates not only how much forest was lost but also when and where. This helps Feronia identify areas being cleared and plan extension work to reduce deforestation. The alerts are verified with the most recent Sentinel imagery.
Step 3- Disclosure
MapHubs Map Maker turns forest alerts into interactive maps, which are publicly available for anyone interested in viewing what is happening inside the concessions. Interactive maps give users to zoom into specific locations and observe recent activity. Here is an example. Maps are simple and fast to make, and provide investors, managers, and civil society with up to date forest information.
A model for other companies?
MapHubs Feronia provides a scaleable model for other companies to follow in DRC and beyond. It’s a simple to use one-stop-shop for forest monitoring and spatial data management. Maps provide a key piece of evidence towards demonstrable compliance and achieving zero deforestation commitments.
A MapHubs portal can help agriculture and timber companies towards compliance with voluntary standards such as RSPO and FSC certification or regulatory requirements such as EU-RED, EUTR, and Lacey Act. MapHubs can also be used to implement the The High Carbon Stock (HCS) Approach within a concession.
MapHubs integrates with OpenStreetMap, so users can also edit base maps over their area of interest. This is a handy if you want to map roads and buildings inside a concession area.
With high resolution imagery, generously donated by DigitalGlobe, we were able to make detailed maps of another concession in DRC — Brabanta. This approach has many applications such as mapping a baseline of buildings and roads and then monitoring migration over time. This is critically important for DRC industrial agriculture development where deforestation will likely be caused migrant workers clearing forest for charcoal and firewood rather than direct clearance for palm oil expansion. However, MapHubs will monitor both indirect and direct drivers of deforestation.
Interested in MapHubs?
A complete MapHubs portal can be setup in a matter of days and is easy for the non-GIS specialist to use. We also keep our costs competitive, so the platform is accessible to everyone, no matter what your budget. If your company or clients would like to give MapHubs a go, contact us for a quote now.