While international agreements and regulations exist to stop deforestation in the Amazon, the reality on the ground is that illegal logging (for timber) and deforestation (for agriculture) continue.
In 2014, in order to compensate for the lack of local forest monitoring, we set up a project of GPS forest community watch on several hotspots of illegal logging and deforestation (for cattle and soy) in Brazil’s Para state, known for its high (illegal) deforestation rates and high levels of violence against forest community leaders.
The aim of Forest Forces is to protect nature, the tropical rainforests, its indigenous inhabitants and other traditional or tribal communities living in it. The foundation acts upon the devastating effect of deforestation and its growing threats.
Protected land is only safe when the laws protecting the land are enforced. In reality, illegal activities are omnipresent and difficult to counter. However, we support efforts protecting the land in three ways:
- Supply of tools and equipment for better surveillance
- Capacity building and empowerment
- Access to justice
1. Tools and equipment
Land protection requires declarations of illegal activities including verified time and location of the crime. The authorities can only act upon a declaration if it has GPS-coordinates and a time stamp of the logging to verify if it is indeed illegal. The constant present clouds make it difficult to monitor the logging with satellites only. Because of this, providing locals with GPS-camera’s is an effective and inexpensive way to record illegal logging. The pictures, including GPS-coordinates, can be brought to the authorities who can help stop the logging companies.
In this article a research project of three years was conducted, showing the success of the GPS-cameras.
To protect their sacred land, indigenous tribes always have a small group of tribe members exploring the area. Because these areas can be quite large, it would be really helpful for them to explore by bike instead of by foot. For this reason, we provide each tribe with a number of bikes, including bicycle bags and tools, to help them on their missions.
2. Capacity building and empowerment
Social organisation of communities is an essential condition for forest protection. Effective prevention and mitigation strategies are therefore disseminated amongst and between different communities. In this context, training of trainers is proving to be a successful mean to engage and empower locals. Part of the training is aimed at improving internal security measures and surveillance. We’re working in ways as to assist communities in sharing experiences amongst neighbouring communities themselves.
3. Access to Justice
Right now, when indigenous people are being involved in and accused of certain crimes (which they frequently did not commit), they are unable to defend themselves and vulnerable to pressure. To help locals in situations like these, Forest Forces started a fund to provide legal aid to the unjust accused. This fund supports cooperation with local lawyers.