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Rainforest Connection: Acoustic monitoring to protect nature

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Bourhan Yassin, CEO, Rainforest Connection

Sonic patterns reflect the diversity of life on land and can expose threats like illegal logging and poaching. As we explore digital solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we share the perspective of Rainforest Connection CEO Bourhan Yassin.

Tell us about your digital solution to accelerate progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

At Rainforest Connection (RFCx), we focus on real-time threat detection of illegal logging and poaching using acoustic technology. With our free platform, Arbimon, we enable eco-acoustic biodiversity monitoring to foster data-based decisions and drive conservation action on the ground worldwide.

Combined, these efforts deliver a holistic approach that drives decision-making and conservation. But this data and expertise is only as impactful as those who wield it – which is why our work is built upon close collaborations with global scientists, organizations, partners, and local governments.

Which organization or group is behind this digital solution?

We are Rainforest Connection, a nonprofit non-governmental organization (NGO). Currently, we work directly on close to 100 projects, which span about 35 countries to date. Our partners include local NGOs, international NGOs, governments, corporations, and many local communities.

We also make our tools open and accessible globally. Thousands of scientists use our platform to store and analyse acoustic data.

How can your digital solution help put the SDGs back on track?  

Conventional methods for detecting threats, assessing ecosystem health, and evaluating the performance of conservation initiatives often prove superficial, costly, ineffective, inefficient, limited in time and space, and lacking in transparency.

To truly decipher what is happening on the ground, we created a system, backed by the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and acoustic monitoring technology. Sound speaks volumes – and with these tools, the world’s leading ecologists, conservationists, and organizations can transform sound into detections of threats and actionable biodiversity insights.

Which SDGs does your project aim to address, and why?

Our solution aims to address Goal 15 (life on land) and Goal 13 (climate action) by focusing on the critical roles of forests and biodiversity in combating climate change. Our holistic approach and scalable acoustic tech enable real-time detection of illegal logging activities, effectively thwarting further deforestation.

Our solution also monitors biodiversity, tracking ecological patterns and providing data-driven insights to guide conservation efforts. This directly contributes to validating project value, mapping the restoration-effectiveness of major carbon stores, and informing how to optimize investments in conservation action.

What are the greatest challenges or risks you have faced in rolling out your digital solution for the SDGs?

The biggest challenge we are facing is creating the mechanisms for long-term, scaled, and sustainable projects. It is encouraging to see concerted efforts by organizations worldwide and burgeoning financial backing from emerging markets. Both contribute significantly to catalysing transformative shifts in our relationship with, and within, nature.

What are the advantages of joining forces with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other partners to advance digital solutions for the SDGs?  

Now, more than ever, it is critical to join forces and collaborate to implement digital solutions for the SDGs.

Data and expertise are only as impactful as those who wield them. To implement these solutions at scale and drive real action, massive global partnerships are required.

Digital solutions are only one piece of the puzzle. Partners like ITU and UNDP are critical effort aggregators to bring together and mobilize global actors.

Rainforest Connection CEO Bourhan Yassin presented this tech-based climate and biodiversity solution during the SDG Digital event at UN Headquarters on 17 September.

RFCx is featured as a digital solution for SDG15 (life on land) in the SDG Digital Acceleration Agenda, prepared by ITU and UNDP with knowledge partner Boston Consulting Group and support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

RFCx, sensor and data

Image credits: RFCx

(Updated 18/09/2023)

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