Photo by Flickr user strollerdos. Creative commons licence.
Helveta is a company which has developed software used in managing and tracking timber assets. A lecturer from University College London, Dr Jerome Lewis, has been collaborating with them and NGOs to help local forest communities in Cameroon to monitor logging in their forests.
The forests of Cameroon are subject to extensive illegal logging and the timber pirates often destroy vital resources for local people. The team has adapted GPS units using icon-driven software so that the local communities themselves can monitor the forests.
Under agreements that are being made with the European Union, governments must ensure they allow only legal logging and to operate in a way that respects the rights of indigenous communities. This system, which sends data directly to the website, will be able to demonstrate that these promises are being kept and so allow the timber to be sold on the European market.
Both the local forest communities and the government will gain from the system: the forests will be protected from illegal logging and the timber can be sold to the lucrative European market. They hope in the longer term that the system will be used in other countries of the Congo basin.
It's a wonderful example of how modern technology can help the survival of low technology communities.