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We start our project in the Amazon forest. Because this is the largest rainforest in the world, and it is of unmeasurable value to the entire world. Our goal is to protect an ever-expanding network of intact forest areas. We selecteded 9 project locations together with local Indigenous federations in Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.

Our action plan

Together with local communities and Indigenous Peoples we gather information about the destruction of the forest: analyzing satellite images, recording deforestation and violations with drones and smartphones, mapping the territory, video for evidence, as well as storing and presenting the information safely and effectively. We make full use of technological solutions to help defend the interests of the indigenous peoples. The images, maps and stories collected by local forest ranger teams are part of the power of this project. We also strategically employ all information and evidence gathered to bring about a structural change. Through lobby and awareness campaigns, and law enforcement.

Early warning systems

In 2014 the World Resources Institute launched an online platform that offers environmental organisations and conservationists an unprecedented insight in global deforestation: Global Forest Watch (GFW). We improve this platform by incorporating a revolutionary new technology that allows satellites to see through the clouds that now often still cover the images of the forest: the radar satellite Sentinel 1. This helps to detect even small-scale, but disastrous logging in the rainforest that now remains invisible. The University of Maryland contributes to to the Global Forest Watch platform with research.

Monitoring

Even the most advanced satellites cannot register everything. Therefore, the eyes and ears and knowledge of the local population are indispensable. We empower them to take control of the forest with the aid of smartphones and other equipment to effectively monitor their territories themselves, verify and add to GFW alerts and document the destruction of forest and violations of their rights at the spot.

Drones have turned out to be a fantastic addition for local teams of forest monitors. High-tech cameras and sensors can easily be mounted on Styrofoam constructions. All images are automatically labelled with a date and GPS-coordinates. Digital Democracy provides trainings, and field researchers from the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) provide technical support for as long as necessary.

Mapping

The mapping starts with a paper map on which local communities indicate their knowledge of the forest. The next step is transferring the information into digital maps that are usable for the teams of forest monitors themselves, but that can also be shared with partners and authorities.

In our project, we introduced the new open source software Mapeo, which makes this process a lot easier for the local cartographers – also without an internet connection. Mapeo works offline and can easily be put on a USB-stick, so it can be shared when online connections available.  The communities decide themselves how and when they share the information they collected, and with whom. Like the early warning system of COICA.

Video for evidence

The teams of monitors are empowered to shoot convincing and reliable video footage with their mobile phones, without putting themselves in danger. They are also supported in reaching the right audience: admissible in the courtroom and useful for investigation authorities, while also telling a solid story that convinces decision-makers. We develop learning material and custom tools together with local activists. In this way, an increasing group of individuals will learn how to effectively and safely record the destruction of their forest – as well as threats and attacks aimed at their communities – on video, with a simple instrument: the smartphone.

ARTICLE 19 and WITNESS join forces in this project, in training and using video footage as evidence in the courtroom.

Research

Once is clear who are destroying the forest, we are ready to take action. Sometimes, local communities know right away who the culprit is, or it becomes apparent from the newest high-res radar satellite images. At other times, additional research has to be done to get a clear image of our target.

In order to track the companies responsible for the destruction of these forests and to bring them to justice, the research teams of Greenpeace track raw materials and transports, unravelling the connections of companies and ultimately uncover impunity, illegal activities and corruption. BOTH Ends follows relevant international financial flows and identifies the large-scale investors.

Law enforcement

Internationally, INTERPOL LEAF connects the dots and strengthens local law enforcement through issuing verified reports drawn up on the basis of the evidence, and their own investigative capacities targeted at preventing and punishing forest crime.

Law enforcement authorities locally often arrive at the ‘scene of the crime’ much too late. That is why in this project, we develop user friendly work-flows to produce reports on the destruction of forest in such a way that law enforcement authorities and investigative authorities can accept them as evidence.

Linking and learning

We record our lessons, technology and new insights, we proactively share them, so that we and others all over the world will be able to take advantage of this new knowledge. Hivos supports this ‘Linking and Learning’. Whether it is advice on how to lobby, creative ideas for campaigns or the solution to a technical problem. We bring together people who encounter the same problems and who need the same solutions.