Supplying indigenous communities with smartphones and satellite data can significantly reduce illegal deforestation and mining in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest.  

Remote-sensed deforestation alerts have been put in place to share high-frequency information on tree cover loss in the Amazon rainforest. Yet the data generated by the sensors doesn’t necessarily reach impacted populations and communities in time to protect and prevent forest disturbance. 

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers found that by connecting and supplying indigenous communities with satellite data to early deforestation alerts, incentivises local members to patrol, which contributes to the overall reduction of tree cover loss in the Amazon. 

Over the course of two years, the trial discovered deforestation dropped by a substantial 52% in 2018 in communities that were randomly assigned equipment to control and monitor. However in 2019, the deforestation only decreased by a modest 21%. Researchers also estimated reductions were largest in communities facing the largest threats, including illegal gold mining, logging, and the planting of illicit crops that contribute towards a larger cocaine market

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Local communities have come to regard programme monitors as authorities of forest management and as a result, help incentivise community members to patrol and spur more timely and greater action in stemming deforestation. 

Developing countries have also increasingly decentralised forest governance by titling indigenous communities, meaning granting indigenous people legal rights to land and territory. Currently, almost a third of forests in the Southern hemisphere are managed by local communities. Involving local and indigenous communities is key to fighting the climate crisis.

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