Ways forward for Myanmar National Forest Inventory

18-22 February 2019, Bago


Field Methodology Training to the Pioneer Field Crew Leaders and Assistant Field Crew Leaders for Myanmar National Forest Inventory



Myanmar has a long tradition in Forest Inventory and is among first countries in the world that historically had established sample-based large area forest inventories. The first National scale forest inventory was established in 1980/81 with the funding from UNDP/FAO as first phase and second phase until 1992. However, the National Level Forest Inventory was not able to fully finish for a number of different reasons.


To support the National Scale Forest Inventory, FAO UN-REDD Programme has been working together with the Forest Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, since 2015. In 2016, FD had endorsed the National Forest Monitoring Action Plan (NFMS-AP) which becomes the basis for developing and upgrading existing large area forest inventory and monitoring capacities in the country over the coming years for multi-purposes including REDD+ and national forest, climate change and environmental policy planning and evaluation.


The continuous support on the development of National Forest Inventory has been started significantly with the technical mission of FD technical experts to FAO HQ to discuss more on NFI design and planning questions with FAO colleagues and inventory experts from Finnish Nature Resource Institute, LUKE. A lot of technical discussion has been made on the (1) General Design and Sampling Approach for NFI; (2) Sample Size Options and (3) Draft Field Methodology and Field Manual including draft Field Forms.


As a discussion with wider stakeholders, a Myanmar National Forest Inventory Draft Methodology Workshop had been organized back in December 2018 (please follow the link for more information: http://www.fao.org/myanmar/news/detail-events/en/c/1176073/). During the workshop, the participants were suggested to make the testing of the proposed Sampling Design in the field together with the draft field methodology.


Following the NFI workshop in December, 2018 a 4.5 days Field Methodology Training was organized for 14  Field Crew Leaders and Assistant Field Crew Leaders at Bago Yoma Eco-resort from 18th to 22nd of February 2019. The training was divided up in in two-days of indoor training, and two-days of outdoor training and half-day to get the feedback from the trainees after the outdoor training.


The Field Methodology training was focused on making potential field crew leaders and their assistants familiar with the draft National Forest Inventory (NFI) field measurement methodology, its tools and instruments as well as the future full scale NFI field work.


In the Opening Speech of the training by the Director General of Forest Department, Dr. Nyi Nyi Kyaw highlighted the importance of having updated information on the condition and quality of Myanmar forests which will be useful for better national forest policy planning and strategy development but also for more accurate reporting on status and changes in forests in the context of international policy processes such as REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,  FAO’s Forest Resource Assessment, FRA, and several other international initiatives where Myanmar is a partner country.


Mr. Franz Arnold, Chief Technical Advisor of FAO UN-REDD Programme presented the design proposal of the National Forest Inventory and its rationale, highlighting the differences between the old NFI of the 1980s and the new NFI developed in the context of the UN-REDD Programme said, “The inventory of the 1980s was not fully finished for many different reasons. The new one is based on the experiences of the old one and many other experiences that the Forest Department gathered here over the years as well as the wealth of experience FAO has had over decades of work in developing national forest monitoring and inventory systems in many different countries.

The design and planning process will be done quite differently at this time compared to the old one. An important part is also that it will not only gather information on biomass and carbon stock of the forest but also many other attributes of trees, forests and landscapes with trees important for better management and conservation of Myanmar’s forest and tree resources. The NFI is also an essential element for the country’s ability to participate in future   so called result- based payment for REDD+ as the stock and changes in forest carbon can only be reliably estimated based on systematic ground information derived from the NFI in combination with remote sensing data on land cover areas extent and changes.


Even though Myanmar National Forest Inventory is intended to implement with new modernized methodology and advanced instruments at nation-wide level, there are still many challenges ahead for Forest Department and its international partners.


Based on his international experience for Forest Inventory, Mr. Pekka Hyvonenen, Research Scientist of Luke mentioned some possible challenges for Myanmar NFI like this, “Myanmar is quite large country. So, variation in terrains in nature is huge. How to capture all of variations is vast and will surely be some challenges especially for mangrove area and other land areas. And there may be some difficulties in confidential area for some political reason.”


Director of Planning and Statistic Division of Forest Department, U Tin Tun remarked on some possible challenges on NFI from government point of views. He said, “As a developing country, we still need technical and financial support for Nation-wide Forest Inventory. And skillful human resource for NFI process is also challenging to us. We are moving forward to peace process at the present. But, we still have some difficulties to cover all states and regions due to political reasons.” And he also mentioned about what forest department is doing to overcome such kind of challenges. He said, “We are collaborating with international organizations such as FAO and Luke for technical and financial support in our NFI process to overcome those challenges I mentioned above. And we also have long- term plan of training and capacity building programme for national staff in our related institutions. For example, a week training combined with methodology and field testing we are doing now. So, I do hope that the challenges will be settled down with the help of international support.”


Planning process of new Myanmar Nation-wide Forest Inventory is not an easy thing. It needs strong analysis and reviews on the techniques and experiences of other countries in the region who have done Forest Inventory before Myanmar. Dr. Myat Su Mon, Deputy Director from Planning and Statistics Division of Forest Department shared her experience on learning other countries’ practice in NFI as a forest department staff, “With the help of FAO and as a part of UN-REDD programme, I studied India’s Forest Inventory process. The process was done by a department called India Forest Survey, not Forest Department there. We also observed how they divided zones for NFI and how they conduct capacity building programme for their department staff and how they mobilized community to participate in their NFI process. And we also studied how they analyze the data and finally the reporting process. Moreover, we also studied Vietnam’s National Forest Inventory and also Finland’s experience on that. We got a lot of good experiences from them.”


Besides reviewing on international experiences of other countries, the role of data collectors in NFI process is crucial too. If a country doesn’t have skilled and well-trained people to work as a data- collectors, and for data analysis and reporting, the outcome of the whole NFI process will not be as good as expected. Mr. Franz Arnold, FAO’s Chief Technical Advisor explained how FAO UN-REDD programme helped to enhance capacity of the Forest Department staff and its related institutions. He said, “Capacity building is really important, and we need to carry this out continuously. Now, we have a major training session especially for the field methodology. We’re here at Bago Yoma Eco resort for one week to train future field crew leaders and assistant crew leaders in the task of carrying out measurements in the forest and other land types with trees outside forests. This is a kind of on the job training. At the moment, we have a small number of around 15 people at the training. This will be eventually increased to 30-35 field crews in future.”


He added how they controlled data quality like this, “We need to control and supervise continuously for quality control and quality assurance of data set. We have developed a quality control and quality assurance plan in order to make sure that the whole process of data collection, uploading, processing and analysis is done with the utmost care and to minimize any error sources. We have many formal and informal training capacity building sessions.  They are in coming months and years”.


During the training, some of the field crew leaders shared their experience on draft NFI design, sampling strategy and the use of forest mensuration instruments and the difference between old data collection and new one. U Thant Zin Tun, Range officer of Patheingyi Township from Mandalay region said, “In the past, we have been doing Forest Inventory according to 30- year master plan of Forest Management. It was included collecting inventory data  every ten years and reviewing data every five years for District- level Forest Management plans. At that time, we collected data for planning of extracting timber, managing watershed area and forest management at district level in general. And In the past, we did inventory on paper base with non-advanced measuring instruments. In some cases, we could only produce estimated data. In the new NFI, as a pilot testing, I saw a lot of differences. Methodology is advanced and so is its tools and instruments. And there may be some difficulties because scope of data collection is so wide. Anyway, I think, new NFI data will be really effective for Myanmar and forest department.”


U Yan Naing Win, Ranger Officerof Pathein Township from Ayeyarwaddy region also shared his point of views on new NFI. He said, “I had an experience of forest inventory in 2013 at Rakhine Yoma. At that time, we used UTM map and GPS, not have a chance to use Google map. Data collecting was very simple; only recording the numbers of trees and their general information like height, DBH etc. in sample plots. In this new National Forest Inventory, it uses a lot of advanced tools to collect data. For example, we will use tablets for data collecting and data entry to reduce unnecessary paper-work and to save time. And calculating trees’ height and diameter, we will use many advanced-technology devices to get more exact measurements .”


Kunghein township’s Range Officer, U Nay Lynn Oo also shared his opinion on the new NFI.He said, “The objectives of new NFI are in wide range as far as I noticed. It also focuses on calculating Forests’ carbon stock and carbon storage at nation-wide level. It will also collect data on soil type, tree information, bamboo and Non-timber forest products found in plot area.  And it will only record actual data (It means you need to go to the places and record only what you collected in practical). So, in new NFI, there may be some challenges because of collecting wide range of data sets and focusing on data accuracy and data quality. But, I think we will have very reliable data at the end of this NFI for our forest planning and for REDD+ process.”


When the data collection and analysis of full scale NFI is done, it will be interesting to know how the data and results be used and how they will be communicated to public. Mr. Franz Arnold, CTA of FAO gave some explanations on that. He said, “This will obviously take some years still. When the actual data collection starts, it will take two to three years probably.   So, after that another probably two years is needed for processing and analysis of data and the production of the actual reports including discussion of results with stakeholders. The use of information is mainly for those who make decisions at higher level.  The data we are producing is not meant for operational planning, it is for strategic planning. It is basically intended for long- term policy making related to environmental conservation and academic, international reporting for example, report of NDC to UNFCCC. Information from the inventory will go to different reporting schemes.”


According to Franz’s explanation, NFI results will be accessible to all stakeholders including general public probably through web communication tools. Moreover, anyone who would like to know more deeply about the process and results can contact directly to FAO UN-REDD programme and they will support what you need for information.


On the last day of the training, the field inventory tools were handed over to the respective Field Crew Leaders and Assistant Field Crew Leaders for data collection in the field in the context of the Field Testing on draft Field Methodology. It will be carried out in six districts (Pyapon, Tharyarwaddy, Pyin Oo Lwin, Myingyan, Katha and Taunggyi) after this field training. The number of clusters to be collected will be 132; 108 Temporary clusters and 24 Permanent clusters. The objectives of the field testing are (i) to test the general practicality of field methodology and identifying potential difficulties or problems either in general or in particular circumstances, (ii) to evaluate time and cost requirements of draft field methodology for further planning of full scale implementation of the NFI, and (iii) to reveal issues that merit attention for further training/ capacity building in technical/ administrative or organization terms.


The comments, suggestions and feedback from all Field Crew Leaders and Assistant Field Crew Leaders after the field testing will be very useful for further planning of Full-Scale National Forest Inventory in Myanmar.