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SMART Conference: Using Technology to Protect the Environment

The Ministry of Sustainable Development today played host to the 2022 conference on the National Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool or SMART. The Ministry’s CEO Doctor Kenrick Williams explained why the Ministry facilitated such an exercise. We also heard from Kamille Pennell, who is a technical coordinator at the Wildlife Conservation Society, about the organisation’s role in the process. 

Dr. Kenrick Williams, CEO, Ministry of Sustainable Development: “The ministry really is trying to find more integrated ways to address enforcement, address protected areas management in general. You see we all understand that we have very limited resources as it relates to investments in protected areas. There’s a significant financial gap in terms of investments in protected areas. What today’s conference is doing is to look at a specific tool that will help to collate data, collate information as it relates to enforcement, as it relates to monitoring, as it relates to reporting and improve really the data that we have to inform policy. So again, because we have limited money to invest, once we have information on the hotspots, once we have information on whee the challenges are, where the communities are then we can focus our limited resources in those communities in those priority areas and that is really part of the broader efforts of the ministry to look at some of the key gaps in terms of co-management, in terms of reporting and in terms of its investment, so we’re tailoring all of the discussions around, “How do we strengthen the process?” One of the gaps is always data.”

Kamille Pennell, Technical Coord., Terrestrial Prog., WCS: “ WCS has been leading the implementation of the Smart Tool since 2012. It really gained a lot of traction and interest in 2015 where our, both NGO partners as well as the Government partners gained interest. So we’ve been working with them since then to train up rangers and protected area managers to learn how to implement the technology and also we’ve been working with donors to ensure that these partners have the necessary materials. So, ensure they have computers but also handheld devices such as smart phones to also implement the tool.”

Saul Cruz, the coordinator of the Biodiversity Office within the Ministry, explained why data of this magnitude can help solve some of the country’s environmental and ecological challenges. 

Saul Cruz, Coordinator, Biodiversity Office: “Smart is basically an android application. It can be installed on any mobile device. It’s a very user friendly application that basically assists with the streamlining and social systematising how information is gathered out in the field. As we have discussed throughout this morning, you know, part of the rangers work is to carry out patrols and field activities so the tool basically, well one pat of the tool which is the Android application basically ensures that the rangers are collecting and not missing the critical components of their enforcement job so any observations in relation to pressures, threats, illegal activities, is recorded within the system. The system automatically collects spatial data or GPS coordinates. It allows you to take pictures. It allows you to input any observation. So you can type in observations and details of any particular incident that you have. The pictures are geo reference so at any point in time you can tag those images. You can go back to a specific point on a map and you can look at the, overtime you can see how the different activities are happening, you know, kind of spatially throughout your protected area and also you can track how these things happen over time. So you can look at how hunting happens within a year. You can see which months of the year are highest in that particular threat or in illegal logging. So it allows you to centralise all this data collection and obviously it brings along that spatial information, the GPS coordinates which then you can use to spatially represent this type of information on maps, on different types of formats. No?”

The event was held under the theme “Integrating data collection through SMART Technology, Strengthening Belize’s Approach to Protected Areas Enforcement”.