What problem are you trying to solve?
In the last two decades, Peru has faced internal conflicts related to the extraction of natural resources. There is a big indigenous population and weak land titling. State forces and illegal loggers are the main perpetrators of violence against environmental defenders. The Peruvian Amazon basin; Madre de Dios, has faced in the last 10 years a gold rush with dramatic human and environmental consequences. Within 2005 and 2012 more than 50,000 ha of primary tropical forest has been deforested and the spread of gold mining activities has drastically amplified the presence of illegal activities, including human trafficking, the violation of environmental rights. Madre de Dios is losing about 4,437 hectares of forest every year since 1999 and one of the main interventions is strengthening the local monitoring mechanisms. This discourages intruders and increases the capacity of environmental defenders to manage the information and technology which assures sustainability of the results.
What is your solution to this problem?
We use mobile technology created by Rainforest Connection to monitor and protect vulnerable areas in Tambopata. It’s an amazingly simple system. Taking an old smartphone, they retrofit it with solar panels (nicknamed Guardians’) and hide it in the tree canopy where it listens constantly for the sound profiles of illegal logging. The moment that a chainsaw is used in the forest, the noise is picked up by the devices. An alert is sent to SPDA who can intervene and halt the logging on the spot. This entire process can happen within a matter of minutes. SPDA had worked for many years together with IUCN NL preparing the local legislation to make it possible for rangers or police to catch intruders in the act. An innovative combination of a motivated local community, law and technology, SPDA has already successfully intervened on several occasions to stop illegal loggers in the act. All this supports collaboration amongst local communities and improves the safety of Environmental Defenders.
What is your latest update on your innovation?
The focus is the further development and enhancement of technology and expanding the coverage through additional Guardian installations. Rainforest Connection team along with SPDA has visited the region for the second time and installed more devices in concession areas that are in facing illegal logging and the constant presence of miners. After the first mission, a couple of illegal loggers were caught red-handed in the Indigenous community of Infierno. Adapting the technology to better operate and survive in the forests of Tambopata, build specific monitoring tools, dashboards and software to fit in with the operations of SPDA and the Defenders has improved the vigilance ability of the local Environmental Defenders thereby giving them a better chance of planning interventions. When the right tech is in the hands of the right local groups, our collective strength can make a tremendous difference in protecting the planet we all share and the future we all depend upon.