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Cycle 7 (2018 Deadline)

Numba Wachokkeri: Empowering indigenous peoples to protect their forests with cutting-edge technology

PI: Aimy Cáceres Pinedo (, Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA), and co-PI Carlos Saito Villanueva, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP)
U.S. Partner: Eben Broadbent, University of Florida
Dates: November 2018 - October 2020

Project Overview

7-355_Pinedo_Mar-Jun 2019 Drones .jpg
Four vertical take-off and landing aircrafts (VTOLs) have been acquired for the project. Photo courtesy of Dr. Pinedo
The Peruvian Amazon has a diverse landscape with rich biodiversity and cultural heritage. Within this region lies the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (ACR) that protects over 690,000 hectares of tropical forest and the native indigenous communities inhabiting it. Additionally, this reserve also connects other important conservation areas, including Manu National Park, Madre de Dios Indigenous Territorial Reserve, Tambopata National Reserve, and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. ACR has an unique management structure, in which the Peruvian National Park Service (SERNANP) co-manage the reserve with an elected indigenous-based organization known as the Executor of the Administrative Contract of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (ECA-Amarakaeri). Together, they have established a control and monitoring system to protect the forest. Unfortunately, in recent years the ACR has suffered severe forest loss produced by illegal activities, especially gold mining and logging. Moreover, the implementation of control and monitoring actions in these areas have high logistical costs due to the transportation of park rangers and indigenous community members. These activities also pose a serious risk to the safety of these people because of possible confrontation with offenders.

The use of remote sensing technology, including drones and satellite imagery, are tools that can increase the effectiveness of monitoring efforts and improve the response to threats in a timely manner, while safeguarding the integrity of patrolling members. Therefore, the overall goal of this project is to develop complementary actions for the control and monitoring system of the ACR by using cutting-edge technology. To meet this goal, the project team will: 1) improve and develop current drone technology to overcome barriers in challenging tropical environments; and 2) transfer this technology to achieve the sustainable implementation of effective monitoring and control actions. The research team will develop the present drone technology to overcome the environmental barriers. Then, they will transfer this knowledge to the indigenous communities so they can incorporate it to their control and monitoring actions and increase the effectiveness to reduce the impacts of extractive activities in the ACR. Finally, the project team anticipates the near-real-time knowledge of the advance of illegal activities, through this technology, will result in better decisions for effective co-management.

The project will focus on the southeast Peruvian Amazon, specifically in Madre de Dios region--the biodiversity capital of the country--which currently also has the second highest deforestation rates in Peru, mainly due to illegal and informal gold mining and the expansion of the agricultural frontier. This project is anticipated to address natural resources sustainably managed in the Amazon Basin and glacier highlands, because it is focused on monitoring extractive activities that threaten the natural resources of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (ACR) and its indigenous communities. The project will evaluate the strategies built between the Peruvian National Park Service (SERNANP) and the indigenous-based organization that co-manage the ACR, ECA-Amarakaeri, especially related to the control and monitoring efforts to protect the reserve. The project seeks to develop capacities related to the use of cutting-edge technology, in order to improve the ACR control and monitoring activities to protect the natural resources. These activities include the direct participation of official park rangers (SERNANP) and members of the ECA-Amarakaeri indigenous vigilance committee.

Project updates

During March-June 2019 reporting period, the team acquired drone prototypes. The project consultant surveyed the current situation of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (ACR), as part of the development of the baseline for the control and monitor activities. The project consultant, provided the team with pivotal information regarding the ACR. First, he produced a vulnerability report of the ACR, including its current situation and maps showing areas of threats, human pressure and deforestation risk. Then, he made a report on control and monitoring activities by both the official park rangers of the Peruvian National Park Service (SERNANP) and the members of the indigenous vigilance committee of the Executor of the Administrative Contract of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (ECA-Amarakaeri that took place in the ACR between during the period of 2014-2018. 

The PEER team purchased four vertical take-off and landing aircrafts (VTOLs), specifically Foxtech Nimbus VTOL V2 for mapping and surveying. Modifications the team will make to their drone aircraft prototypes will allow appropriate setting of the payload (i.e. the mapping camera), in order to guarantee a long flight distance and time, and will also allow the user to track them in case of an accident (signal loss during flight).

Collaborations and outreach: Members of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  met with qAIRa during this quarter. During EPA representatives'  visit to the drones’ laboratory at PUCP, qAIRa helped install the monitor in qAIRa’s hexacopter qEYE for the initial flight testing, which was successful. The next steps are to evaluate whether the VTOL drones used in this project can also carry the mercury monitor, and to coordinate real-scenario tests in Madre de Dios.  

During this reporting period the team participated in two workshops organized by the co-management of the ACR, which consists of the SERNANP and the ECA-Amarakaeri. Both workshops were focused on strengthening capacities of local stakeholders, specifically ACR technical staff, including official park rangers and members of the vigilance committees, and chiefs of the indigenous communities of this Protected Area. The first workshop took place on May 7th and 8th in Puerto Maldonado (Madre de Dios) and had the participation of about 70 people. The second workshop was done from June 19th to 21st in the Puerto Luz indigenous community convening around 60 participants. The team briefed about  drone use and its regulation  in Peru. Furthermore, the presentation included a practical demonstration in drone flight and piloting. These workshops were also part of All Eyes on the Amazon, a program run by a coalition of several organizations (e.g. Hivos, ISS, COICA, Interpol), which has been an opportunity to complement the work the team is doing

7-355_Pinedo_Mar-Jun 2019 flying drones.jpg7-355_Pinedo_Mar-Jun 2019 workshop  
 Workshop held in Puerto Maldonado (May 2019) to strength capacities of local stakeholders Workshop held in Puerto Luz (indigenous community) in June 2019 to strengthen capacities of local stakeholders

Future plans

During the upcoming 3-6 months of 2019, the team, is aiming to finish building the four drone prototypes and carrying out a series of field tests (flights) to test the performance of the prototypes around the outskirts of Lima (Santa María),  in a mountainous tropical area of Peru, specifically in the Chanchamayo Valley; in the Quincemil sector, which is located in the Buffer Zone of the ACR, i.e. the area of interest, since it is one of the deforestation hotspots of this PA; in Puerto Luz, as part of a regular patrol (a periodic and anticipated patrol). This is one of the indigenous communities that are part of the ECA-Amarakaeri and it is located in the Setapo sector of the ACR; and in  the ACR (venue TBC), as part of a special patrol (a patrol organized to deal with a particular reported event). The team also plans to begin organization of the capacity-building training modules for the official park rangers and members of the indigenous vigilance committee and Implementing the monitoring unit for the ECA-Amarakaeri.

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