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Jan 25, 2018

Getting SMART About Sustainable Management

Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) is a new tool being used by marine and terrestrial conservationists in Belize. The software was introduced locally a little over five years ago – and since then it has been used to sustainably manage resources in different protected areas. It is widely used in different parts of the world to monitor, report and protect threatened and endangered species. On Wednesday, the app was officially launched in Belize City. News Five’s Andrea Polanco tells us more about this software and how conservationists are using it.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool, also called “SMART”, is a free, easy-to-use software that combines GPS, data collection and camera that provide advanced analytical reporting functions. Conservationists in terrestrial and marine protection, across the world and in Belize, now use SMART. Many years ago, data collection and reports were done manually in Belize. But this software reports to be more “more adaptive and intuitive” and so it provides strengthened monitoring, evaluation and enforcement capabilities tailored for patrols and site-based conservation activities, that other methods and technologies cannot provide.

 

Nicole Auil Gomez

Nicole Auil Gomez, Country Director, WCS

“It really began as a model to look at how it can be used by law enforcement agencies for conservation compliance within the marine sector. So our focus was really working with the fisheries department and up to now, in 2018, we have it being used by non-governmental organizations that co-manage marine protected areas, as well as the Fisheries Department. Now, the Forestry Department and terrestrial protected area managers are utilizing the system as well.  Everything was done on paper in the field, provided that paper made it back to the office and not got wet, then that data would be transferred to a data base and then someone would have to sit down and do the analysis of all the data coming in. This system now, once you have wifi access, data is entered immediately. Everything is entered into one unit including the location, you can photographs, the new licensing system has QR codes and that can be scanned, so all the licensing information is automatically entered. So, it reduces human error, it reduces time, makes things more efficient and what it really helps to do for managers is to make sure they can account for where their patrols are being taken – and not just locations of infractions where the points are taken; so you can have the span of area, how much gasoline, for instance, was used; how much area was covered and it helps with safety as well, ensuring that you know where your teams are at all times and so on.”

 

So, this SMART technology simplifies processes and amplifies efficiencies. SMART gathers and stores data, as well as generates user-friendly detailed reports used for day-to-day planning and management decisions.

 

Julio Maaz

Julio Maaz, Technical Coordinator, Sustainable Fisheries, WCS

“And these reports you don’t have to go in and try to manually calculate what you are doing. These are reports that are done nearly automatic. Templates are developed and you just run your time series based on what you want the report for. We can look at several statistics. We can look at distance travelled, manned hours, number of patrols, where they are going. From the time the rangers leave the ranger station to go on a patrol, that device is tracking their movements and so you will be able to estimate the time and effort that they are putting towards that particular enforcement action.  So, here we have a series of tracks generated by both Government and NGOs and the types of observation. There are a few stars showing where infractions are happening. This type of date allows managers to see where there is gaps; see where there is need for more enforcement or see where they need to focus their efforts more.”

 

And when SMART monitors and enforces, it helps with the country’s sustainable management of its resources – so that things like timber and fish can continue to support the economy in the years to come.

 

Omar Figueroa

Dr. Omar Figueroa, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, Sustainable Development

“Belize is a small country and we develop heavily on our natural resources. As the country develops and our population explodes, the pressures on these natural resources will increase. So, we got to be really strategic about how we sustainably manage these resources. One of the main challenges we encounter as the country develops when it comes to enforcement and monitoring and what SMART does is really increase the efficiencies and effectiveness of how our enforcement unit are able to go out and patrol the environment and monitor and collect data.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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