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26 Jul 2018 | Blog

Experiences from the Third International REDD+ Training at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand

Prashanti Sharma

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Meeting the soil doctors, organic farmers who produce their own manure. Photo- Local Villager

When I confirmed my participation at the third International REDD+ training at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Thailand, I was most excited about one particular activity on the agenda: hands-on experience in handling drones and new techniques in high resolution image processing. This training introduced me to aspects of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) that I was not aware of before.

The ten-day training took place from18 to 27 May and was organized by the School of Environment, Resources and Development, through its programme on Natural Resource Management (NRM), AIT. The trainers included eminent resource persons from the field of forest monitoring, REDD+, and Geospatial science. It consisted of both theoretical and practical sessions on understanding forest carbon stock calculations, carbon trading, and using high-resolution imagery for forest monitoring. There were 10 participants in all – mostly young researchers, foresters, and AIT students, from Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Thailand.

Eminent resource persons including Dr Nophea Sasaki (Associate Professor, AIT), Dr Rajendra Shrestha (Professor and RS/GIS Expert, AIT) and Mr Manjunatha Venkatappa (RS/GIS, GEE drone expert) facilitated the sessions. Their expertise enriched our learning experience.

Hydroponic farming is ideal for the climate in Thailand. Photo-Mr Manjunatha V, AIT

The training also included a field visit to the Khao Hin Sorn Royal Development Study Centre where we learned about establishing forest inventory plots. The centre focuses on novel agricultural developments, supported by the public and private sectors. We saw how a large plot of land, one barren, has been transformed by the development of water sources, forest conditions, and land and animal husbandry. The area now serves as a model for development for other areas. We also visited a nearby farming community, some members of which included certified soil doctors who practice organic farming and produce their own bio-fertilizers as a part of sustainable agriculture. Some of the farmers also consider using techniques like hydroponics to grow fruits and vegetables beneficial. We learnt that farmers use organic compost and bio-fertilizers to raise agricultural productivity. The farmers reported that they experienced an increase in agricultural yield of rice and vegetables since they stopped using synthetic fertilizers and switched to bio-fertilizers.

The field visit focused on setting up inventory plots and a drone mission in Khao Hin Sorn Forest. High resolution imagery collected through a Phantom 4 drone during the training was later combined with field inventory to calculate tree height and canopy density. As participants, we gained practical experience in the use of drone and other forestry equipment during the field inventory exercise. The theoretical session surpassed classroom presentations on various REDD+ topics to include actual practical calculation of Forest Reference Emission Levels (FREL) and Emission Reduction and Removal Calculation.

Field inventory survey. Photo- Ms Phastraporn Salaisook, AIT

Overall, the training was a combination of both theoretical and practical learning. I believe the experience has opened a new window for me in the field of forestry, high resolution image processing, Google Earth Engine, sustainable agriculture, and REDD+.

Presentation by Dr Nophea Sasaki. Photo- Phastraporn Salaisook, AIT

What I will most remember from this experience is the hands-on experience I had handling drones and getting to know new techniques in areas of high resolution image processing. The resource persons gave all the trainees adequate time when answering questions and were keen on interacting with us. Their inexhaustible energy during the theoretical and fieldwork sessions pushed the training to a whole new level. Participating in this training taught me important professional skills and gave me the opportunity to meet professionals from diverse backgrounds. I will cherish this experience forever and am grateful to my supervisors at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) for their support.

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