Author: Harry Surjadi, October 7 2013        In November 14 2011, Hendrik - the Head of Asmoja Cooperative of oil palm farmers in Silat Hilir Sub-District, West Kalimantan, [Indonesia], blasted the SMS [text] message to the Cooperative members:

"pt. rap membuka lahan utk perkebunan sawit diluar konsesi yang diterbitkan oleh kabupaten Kapuas Hulu (sumber: Pak Husni/Kabid Dishutbun Kapuas Hulu)" "PT RAP cleared the forest for oil palm plantation outside its concession area issued by Kapuas Hulu District (source: Pak Husni - the head of Plantation Division of Kapuas Hulu District)"

Husni informed that PT RAP (Riau Agrotama Plantation) was illegally cutting and clearing forests areas not in its concession area.

The SMS was also sent to several local government officers of Kapuas Hulu District and Asmoja Cooperative’s members.

On November 29 2011, Hendrik blasted the follow up news that Kapuas Hulu District has ordered PT RAP to stop the illegal clearing activities: "Pemda Kabupaten Kapuas Hulu memberhentikan kegiatan PT. RAP dlm buka lahan di Desa Rumbih dan Nanga Nuar Kec. Slt Hlr Kap Hulu."

On November 30 2011, Hendrik went to local police office in district level to report that PT RAP had done illegal logging activities. Then the police took action to stop the illegal logging activities.

Hundreds of oil palm farmers had received the information through their cell phones. The SMS's also were sent to local government officers. Using an open source program FrontlineSMS, Hendrik easily informed his farmer colleagues using only his cell-phone.

A local television station RuaiTV, Internews, and Knight International Journalism Fellow helped Hendrik to install the FrontlineSMS and trained Asmoja Cooperative members as citizen journalists. All Asmoja Cooperative members monitor the oil palm company and environment using their cell phones.

RuaiTV has developed RuaiSMS using the same program and trained 180 community members in West Kalimantan as citizen journalists. Trained citizen journalists file their reports to RuaiSMS. RuaiTV blasted the reports to around 600 RuaiSMS subscribers.

Based on experiences of RuaiSMS, REDD+ Task Force is using citizen journalism for developing a communication model to monitor REDD+ pilot projects in Central Kalimantan Province. Trained citizen journalists have a new added role. These new citizen journalists, named "information brokers," will not only report news, they will monitor forests and REDD+ pilot projects.

Information brokers are community members trained on basic journalism knowledge and skills. Information brokers, with capability in observing and reporting facts and data, have a high awareness of what happens in their communities.

They will not only focus on reporting news or data, they have responsibility to raise awareness of their community members on certain issues including climate change and REDD+. They are also sources of information for community members. They will inform community members about climate change, FPIC (free and prior informed consent), REDD+, community rights, regulations related to forest issues, and other important information.

Using their cell-phones, information brokers will send news to local media and report information or data to the organization that manages the communication channel.

Their reports will be received by the SMS reporting system using FrontlineSMS program. The system will forward the SMS news/information to specific cell phone numbers belong to government officers who are responsible for certain issues.

The SMS reporting system can be set to forward the SMS news or information to subscribers. The SMS news/information can be pushed to a web site or to social media.

The information brokers will report any changes of land-use, social indicators, economic indicators, and physical changes of forest areas near them. They will also send reports on the FPIC (free and prior informed consent) processes as an important phase of the REDD project.

When the REDD+ project is in the phase of MRV (measurement, reporting, and verification), the information brokers need to join a training on how to collect data that is needed in measurement (M of MRV) of the carbon sequestrated in a species of tree. They will learn how to measure the diameter of a tree, identify certain kinds of trees, and other important indicators. They will be equipped with GPS trackers, digital cameras, and (if needed) video cameras, too.

The pilot program of independent monitoring on REDD+ pilot project with the Indigenous People Alliance of Archipelago (AMAN) has started in August 2012. The program has trained more than 100 indigenous people community members from all districts where REDD+ pilot projects located.

The trained information brokers will submit their report, data, information to the system using FrontlineSMS hosted in the AMAN office in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan. AMAN will compile all information and data and then submit them to the local government or the REDD+ pilot project owners and to mainstream media.

Beside with AMAN, the REDD+ Task Force partnered with PNPM Mandiri Pedesaan and local NGOs in Central Kalimantan to develop four information broker communication systems to monitor the peat-land area of former "peat area project" (x-PLG). The program has trained around 120 community members in the x-PLG areas. The program will put community members as part of REDD+ project. They will help the REDD+ projects manage transparently and give benefit to the communities.

The program will help the communities knowing what is happening or will happen to them when there are changes in their villages and how to response to the changes. The information brokers are the source of information, the eyes, ears and voice for their communities to create accountability and transparency in REDD+ projects.

Click here to read Harry's blog online.