Since 2003, WWF Greater Mekong Programme and Thua Thien Hue Forest Protection Department have implemented the Green Corridor Project in Central Vietnam, which is funded by the World Bank (Global Environment Facility) and Government of Vietnam. The Green Corridor Project has received support from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), to demonstrate the benefits of using Earth Observation technology (satellite imagery) to support biodiversity conservation activities. The CSA-funded project is entitled "Earth Observation Support for Traditional Ecological Mapping and Biodiversity Conservation in Viet Nam (EO-STEM)", and was implemented by a team led by Hatfield Consultants (Canada).
The objective of the EO-STEM Project was to provide support to the government of Vietnam by providing Earth Observation (EO) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technical support to the Green Corridor Project. The goals of the EO-STEM Project were directly linked with those of the Green Corridor Project.
An important activity was community-based mapping to document the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of local communities, specifically forest biodiversity; for example medicinal plants and non-timber forest products. TEK is usually embedded in well-established cultural practices, many of which are related to the capacity of traditional communities or cultural groups to manage and use in a sustainable way the environmental and biodiversity resources of their territory. As a result, biophysical information derived from TEK can be valuable for identifying and managing biodiversity, particularly for those eco-regions that support the traditional cultures and livelihoods of indigenous peoples. Maps play a key role, because TEK information is fundamentally spatial, and maps are all about the language of space.
The community-based mapping conducted in the EO-STEM project used traditional paper maps, geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning system (GPS), and Earth Observation (EO) satellite imagery. The integration of these tools and approaches could be an important stage in the development of new and more innovative TEK methodologies and applications EO can provide a unique perspective of the Earth's surface over very wide or specific areas at a range of spatial scales, within a time frame that is more up-to-date than many other data sources for maps. TEK can provide new insights when interpreting satellite imagery. EO imagery can be used as more than a 'backdrop' for data collection, and EO data and map products provide valuable information to communities. The results of the EO-STEM project, and experience in other parts of the world, suggests that combining the power of TEK with GIS and EO, new ways of visualizing and explaining the human and natural world will open up many opportunities for both the community of trained scientists and the community of local users to work together on meaningful biodiversity issues.
The EO-STEM project included a significant training and technology transfer component to ensure project sustainability. The project team provided hands-on training, conducted workshops and seminars, and developed an interactive "EO/GIS Toolkit" in close cooperation with the WWF and government organizations in Viet Nam. The toolkit is now available online in both English and Vietnamese language at: www.huegreencorridor.org/toolkit