Ghana’s forest guardians use mobile app to expose illegal deforestation

In the Bia West district of Ghana, local communities are harnessing the power of a mobile app to help authorities detect and locate illegal logging.

The app, called Timby (This Is My Backyard), was developed by the SDI Liberia and the Timby team and was distributed amongst the Friends of the Earth network with the help of Milieudefensie. Friends of the Earth Ghana was trained in using the app. They gave it to the local community so they could stand up for their rights and help Ghana’s under-resourced forest services division (FSD) to protect and manage the forests. FoE Ghana also used the app to demand social benefits from the companies in their area.

This innovative tool not only collects crucial data on the primary causes of deforestation but also provides compelling evidence to support lobbying efforts for forest governance reforms.

Friends of the Earth Ghana delivered training to the community members on forest monitoring, and using the Timby app, they were able to capture and report illegal forest logging activities to the FSD of the Juaboso district.

Over 40 arrests

Using the app’s online reporting system, the local forest monitors shared the evidence they had collected with the FSD, and in a joint effort with the Ghana military, 40 arrests were made.

The illegal operators appeared before the magistrate court in Sefwi Wiawso, Western North region of Ghana. Four were given custodial sentences, while the remaining offenders were given fines ranging from 1,200 to 6,000 Ghanaian cedis (100-500 EUR).

Identifying prominent causes of deforestation

The data collected through the app reveals agricultural expansion into forest reserves and illegal mining, two major factors which contribute to deforestation. This information allows the team to work with local communities to design appropriate interventions to address the issue. The app data also serves as strong evidence to support advocacy for legislative reforms in inclusive forest governance.

Photo above: Local community members during a training on how to use the Timby app. © FoE Ghana