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Initiative promotes sustainable agro-forestry, environmental protection, and the livelihood of the rural poor in the Upper Guinean Tropical Forest

Washington, D.C., July 19, 2012 – The U.S. Forest Service has selected Thomson Reuters to map and document land rights in West Africa as part of an effort to promote sustainable use of natural resources, protect the environment, and create a source of income for the rural poor in the threatened Upper Guinean Tropical Forest.

The Forest Service is implementing the Sustainable and Thriving Environments for West African Regional Development (STEWARD) program to strengthen natural resource management, climate change adaptation, and environmental education in the trans-boundary-protected areas of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Ivory Coast, all of which contain portions of this tropical forest ecosystem.

The program, now in its third phase, is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

As a partner in STEWARD Phase III, Thomson Reuters will train three West African communities to document and map land and resource rights, utilizing the company’s OpenTitle software. The information collected will be sent to a geographic information system (GIS) center to be created under the direction of Thomson Reuters at the STEWARD office in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The GIS center will integrate the STEWARD data with geographic information on company lease rights, public lands, natural resources, species mapping, and other content. With this repository, decision-makers can analyze the area’s often-overlapping “rights fabric” in order to better manage natural resources, including the tropical forests, and address rural poverty.

The Upper Guinean Tropical Forest is one of eight major biomes in West Africa and originally covered an estimated 1.3 million kilometers across Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo. The forest sustains approximately one quarter of all plant species on the planet, but its biodiversity is threatened by unsustainable land use practices.

Most of the land in the area is undocumented with no record of formal ownership, and the region lacks well-functioning land management systems that provide clear publicly accessible records to property rights. Without clear documentation to their property rights, residents don’t fully have the ability to secure the land for themselves and their descendants. Historically, these residents then fail to responsibly manage community owned land, which ultimately leads to the over exploitation of shared natural resources.

Thomson Reuters provides land management and land administration software systems and professional services to private sector and government clients worldwide and has deployed software and provided services and training in more than 45 countries worldwide. The company’s OpenTitle software offers governments, partner organizations and communities a flexible and easy-to-use land management system.

“Thomson Reuters is honored to work with the U.S. Forest Service to support this important initiative,” said Peter Rabley, vice president of global business development for Thomson Reuters Government. “Documenting property rights is crucial to the long-term protection of one of the world’s most important ecosystems and to create a livelihood and source of income for these countries’ poorest residents.”

About Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters is the world’s leading source of intelligent information for governments, businesses, and professionals, combining industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver critical information to leading decision makers. Our integrated Government Revenue Management (Aumentum) suite offers end-to-end software with services to ensure revenue through land and property tax administration for governments around the world. Meeting the needs of emerging economies, OpenTitle™ is a registry and cadastre tool with an all-inclusive approach to collecting, documenting, and recording the documentary and geographic information relating to property rights.