Indigenous Peoples prepare to begin satellite monitoring in Roraima

Strengthening the territorial and environmental management of Indigenous Lands in the Amazon preserves the traditions of the populations and protects biodiversity and the standing forest. The "Bem Viver" project promotes the well-being of Indigenous Peoples in the state of Roraima, and developed initiatives to help the communities achieve these goals.

The program aims to reinforce its 11 satellite offices, and two strategic monitoring bases located in the Indigenous Lands they operate. The Indigenous leaders and the Environmental Department of Roraima Indigenous Council (CIR) staff attended two training sessions in December to learn how to use analytic tools for environmental and territorial monitoring with satellite data. 

Through a partnership with the "Bem Viver" project and the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), 17 Macuxi and Wapichana’s  were introduced to online territorial management tools: the Indigenous Amazon Observation System (SOMAI), and the Indigenous Climate Alert (ACI).

In March 2021, Indigenous People in the Legal Amazon were trained  to operate drones, aiming to strengthen the monitoring and territorial management of the Macuxi, Wapishana, Taurepang, and Patamona Peoples, in Roraima. The Kadiwéu, in Mato Grosso do Sul, were also trained.

The "Bem Viver" project was developed under the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB) with support from USAID/Brazil, and implemented by CIR in conjunction with the Brazilian Education Institute (IEB) and Nature and Culture International (NCI). The initiative is also supported by The Stiefel Behner Charitable Fund through Behner Center for Brazilian Studies at San Diego State University. It aims to promote governance and support the territorial and environmental management of Indigenous Lands. The project promotes the National Policy for Territorial and Environmental Management of Indigenous Lands (PNGATI), and structures sustainable Indigenous cattle-farming practices.

Training sessions were held at the Insikiran Institute of the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR), in Boa Vista. Integrating 11 Indigenous leaders, including women and youngsters from six Indigenous lands in the Raposa Serra do Sol, Baixo Cotingo, Surumu, Serra da Lua, Tabaio, Murupu, São Marcos, and Alto Cauamé regions, plus six staff of the CIR Environmental Department.

Courses were divided into modules, they focused on the SOMAI platform and the ACI application, presenting and collecting databases, and drawing up maps. The training facilitates Indigenous People's access to new technologies to support them and give them autonomy in the management of their own lands. In addition,help to dispute illegal activities threatening Indigenous Lands, such as forest fires, invasions, deforestation, and illegal panning. 

“We developed the course together with IPAM, CIR, and NCI. The idea was to strengthen grassroots capacities to generate information — not only warnings of illegal activities, but also data on traditional land use. This will inform the work of the CIR Environmental Department and facilitate information exchange. For territorial monitoring to take place and be useful, it is necessary to generate and process data,” explains Martha Fellows, Indigenous project manager and researcher at IPAM. 

For  Sineia do Vale, who coordinates the CIR Environmental Department, this training helps communities to learn about the tools and gives them autonomy to monitor their own territories. “We can do the mapping and monitoring work together, strengthening our knowledge.”

Sineia was the only Brazilian invited to speak at the Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by President Biden. She illustrates the Environmental Department has been working for over eight years on climate issues and projects in this area. 

In 2021, a report named “Forest Governance by Indigenous and Tribal People”, released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC), demonstrated that Indigenous Lands with full collective property rights had 66% lower deforestation rates compared to other areas in the Brazilian Amazon between 1982 and 2016. In recent years, pressure from illegal activities has increased in the region.

From 2000 to 2012, titled Indigenous territories in the Brazilian Amazon helped to avoid at least 42 million metric tons (MtC) of CO2 emissions each year, which is equivalent to taking about 9 million vehicles off the road for a year.

The state of Roraima has 32 demarcated and fully homologated Indigenous lands, including Raposa Serra do Sol, with 1.7 million hectares, and Yanomami, with 9.7 million hectares - the biggest in Brazil. Both have been affected by the advance of illegal mining.

The tools — The ACI application was developed by IPAM (with support from the Norwegian government) to record data on hotspots and fire risks, in addition to enabling the monitoring of deforestation within and around each Indigenous land.

SOMAI is an online platform with scientific data on Indigenous lands in the Brazilian Amazon, it presents  the importance of territories for actions against climate change. 

“SOMAI and ACI were created for the climate agenda. We always stress the importance of strengthening the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples as a way to fight climate change. Having tools to show where fires are coming from and identify future threats, including droughts, enables us to prepare our responses. The technical and scientific data provided by the platform and application combined with traditional knowledge are powerful tools,” concludes Martha.