According to a new study, technology could create a way for indigenous communities in the Amazon to curb deforestation in a major way, as reported by the BBC.
Conservationist groups have supplied indigenous citizens of the Peruvian Amazon with satellite data and smart phones to allow them to monitor the removal of trees. As a result, tree losses have been halved in the first year of the project.
The researchers wanted to see if putting information directly into the hands of those living in the forests themselves could make a difference to the rapid deforestation that has plagued these areas for decades – with great success.
The controlled study was randomised, using 76 remote villages in the Amazon, with 36 randomly-assigned people participating.
Thirty-seven other communities served as a control group, where normal forest management resumed.
When suspected deforestation was picked up by satellite information, coordinates and photos were loaded onto USB drives and delivered up the Amazon river. Then, the data was downloaded onto apps which would show the participants the locations.
It could then be confirmed whether or not the deforestation was unauthorised, and community members would decide on the best approach. If drug dealers were involved, they could decide whether to report to law enforcers. Otherwise, they would intervene directly.
“It’s quite a sizeable impact,” said Jacob Kopas, an independent researcher and an author on the paper. “We saw evidence of fewer instances of tree cover loss in the programme communities compared with control communities.
“On average, those communities managed to avert 8.8 hectares of deforestation within the first year. But the communities that were most threatened, the ones that had more deforestation in the past were the ones pulling more weight and were reducing deforestation more than in others.”
Indigenous groups welcomed the research. “The study provides evidence that supporting our communities with the latest technology and training can help reduce deforestation in our territories,” said Jorge Perez Rubio, the president of the Loreto regional indigenous organization (ORPIO), where the study was carried out.