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.
How It Works
- The community monitoring programme was conducted in the indigenous Shipibo communities of Patria Nueva and Nueva Saposoa in the Peruvian Amazon, and provided people with GPS information and photos taken from a satellite that flies over the country 14 times a day.
- The trial saw 36 randomly assigned local villages send paid members to patrol and respond to deforestation alerts while another 37 were monitored and compared against existing forest management practices.
- Information was downloaded and shared onto specialised smartphone apps which are used to guide patrols to the sites of possible illegal deforestation or mining.
- Should patrollers encounter any illegal action, they could either personally drive them off or involve law enforcement.
- Within the two-year trial, the programme monitors helped save an estimated 456 hectares (1,127 acres) of rainforest and avoided the release of more than 234,000 metric tons of carbon emissions.
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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.
Featured image by: Flickr