Radar Monitoring, the Newest Ally in the Fight Against Illegal Gold Mining

 With the ability to see through the dense layers of clouds that are a hallmark of the rainforest, track illegal gold mining, and send deforestation alerts throughout the year, RAMI is the most recent ally in the fight against illegal gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon. A newly developed geospatial technology tool, RAMI (Radar Mining Monitoring Tool) monitors the advance of gold mining via satellite and radar in the Amazonian region of Madre de Dios in Peru, a country where the “gold rush” has devastated more than 237,000 acres (96,000 hectares) of primary forest over the past 30 years.

In addition to generating early deforestation alerts and providing real-time information regarding changes in forest cover, the key advantage of this radar mining monitoring tool is its ability to overcome the limitation that satellites encounter when trying to capture photos of the forest on a cloudy day. RAMI’s radar monitoring can “see” through clouds and thus provide information about the forest without weather patterns getting in the way.

“Before using this new platform, we only worked at the level of optical images but the satellites only captured images every six months, with no information during rainy season. With RAMI, monitoring is constant, be it day, night, raining or cloudy,” noted a specialist at the Satellite Monitoring Unit at the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Environmental Matters (FEMA) to Spanish news agency Agencia Efe.


Protecting Forests

The implementation of RAMI since last June looks to strengthen the Peruvian government’s aim to combat the loss of forest cover as a result of illegal gold mining in Madre de Dios. This destructive activity not only causes deforestation, the loss of ecosystems but also the pollution of local water sources by toxic runoff from the mercury used to separate out the gold.

Juan Loja, from Conservación Amazónica – ACCA, explained that the monthly alerts generated by RAMI are not only helpful for those who manage protected areas and governmental decision-making, but also for the indigenous communities of the region. Julio Cusurichi, the president of the Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and Tributaries (FENAMAD), elaborates upon this, saying that, “the information is very important because in one way or another it supports what one can make known. For example, if there is an invasion in a community’s territory, it can be relayed by phone, but it is much better when there is photographic or video evidence.”

In fact, since the Peruvian government launched Operation Mercury in February 2019, an unprecedented measure to combat illegal gold mining in La Pampa region of Madre de Dios, prosecutors and police have gone out to the field every day with the intention of eradicating new illegal gold mining camps and seizing or destroying associated machinery. Without the reliable and real-time satellite data and imagery, however, this process is slow and time-consuming. RAMI is expected to strengthen these initiatives and other efforts that until now have been unable to reverse the environmental disasters caused by the illegal exploitation of one of the many treasures of the Peruvian jungle.


This article was translated and summarized for our audience; click here to read the original article and interviews by Agencia EFE. Read more about the launch of RAMI here. Watch the launch webinar for the RAMI Satellite Monitoring tool (in Spanish). RAMI was developed by Conservación Amazónica – ACCA through the SERVIR-Amazonia program, led by the Bioversity International Alliance and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Co-developers include Alliance of Bioversity – CIAT/SERVIR-Amazonia, Ministerio del Medio Ambiente del Perú (MINAM), Programa Nacional de Conservación del Bosques y Cambio Climático (PNCBMCC), and the Spatial Informatics Group (SIG).

SERVIR-Amazonia is part of SERVIR Global, a joint development initiative of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). SERVIR-Amazonia is led by the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Heartbeats of the Amazon: A Story of Local Communities and Climate Change

“The people of the Liga Verde community are very concerned at the delay of the seasonal rains, so I want to take advantage of this community meeting to suggest something. I think we should burn a bit of the forest, and convert it for cattle ranching. We cannot be tied down to Brazil nut harvesting.”

“Maria, I understand what you say–you’re one of the most active people in the community and you always have good ideas. But we must be very careful not to start fires that can destroy the forest and reach our homes. We are on red alert.”

This month premiered the first few chapters of the new radionovela series, Heartbeats of the Amazon, developed by our sister organization in Bolivia, Conservación Amazónica-ACEAA. This Spanish language radio mini-series follows the fictional Jorge of the close-knit Liga Verde community in the Bolivian Amazon. Like many in northern Bolivia, the people of Liga Verde have traditionally harvested Brazil nuts as their main economic activity, as this this type of trees grow naturally in the dense Amazonian forests.

However, tensions mount when seasonal rains become more and more delayed, leading some to suggest that instead of being “slaves to the Brazil nut”, they use the slash-and-burn method to raise cattle instead. A concerned Jorge painfully reminds everyone of the drought they experienced a few years ago, and how when someone tried to clear land using fire it ended up tearing through their forest and decimating the following year’s Brazil nut production. “In this community we depend on Brazil nuts…there was nothing to live on that year, our harvests were all empty. Now we are going through a difficult drought again and the rains are very late, so I understand what Maria says, but we must be careful so that the medicine is not worse than the disease.”

Though the story is fictional, it is meant to represent and be relatable to the Amazonian communities the mini-series are broadcasted to. The internet is not always strong or reliable in the middle of the forest, so radio is the most sensible way to reach people. The series will cover the effects of climate change and economic activities that encourage keeping forest standing. In fact, the second episode features Jorge’s daughter Ana, who has just returned from studying environmental engineering at a university in the city. She tells her doubtful father that climate change isn’t just a city myth, it “affects us, it affects the entire planet. There are large and fast disturbances in the climate. Unfortunately it’s come to us too, during the drought in 2016 and also now.”

The idea of promoting conservation through short, relatable stories is not only a unique take on environmental ​​education, but also gives an opportunity to showcase the richness of native flora and fauna and the importance of living in harmony with nature.

“How can we help, as a small community, reduce climate change?” Ana poses this question to her father. “We can help reduce it by taking care of the forests and keeping them standing. In this way, the forests absorb pollution and return fresh air. In addition, the integral management of the forest’s resources, such as Brazil nuts, is economically convenient. In this way we have many more resources than clearing the forest and putting in a monoculture. We take care of nature and it also benefits us.”


This initiative is part of the Amazon Forests and Climate Change Project implemented by our sister organizations Conservación Amazónica-ACEAA in Bolivia and Conservación Amazónica-ACCA in Peru, and the Universidad Amazónica de Pando with the support of EUROCLIMA+.


AmazonTEC 2021: Technology-Oriented Megaevent Series Unites Amazonian Leaders

This past week wrapped up a five-part series part of the mega-event AmazonTEC: Technology, Innovation and Empowerment for an Amazon in Crisis, led by our sister organization in Peru, Conservación Amazónica – ACCA who organized four sessions with the support of the United States Embassy in Peru, Norad, NICFI, and in co-creation with USAID Prevent Project.

This was a hybrid event with some sessions hosted in-person in Peru, and the entire conference was streamed virtually. Local, indigenous, regional, national and international speakers all focused on protecting the Amazon shared successful experiences of using technology in the field to combat environmental crimes, and reflected on challenges and opportunities in technological innovation. 

The first of the five sessions began on October 19. Session 1’s Successful Experiences Applying Technology Against Forest Crimes in the Amazon shared how satellite and drone imagery was used in the field to successfully combat deforestation and other forest crimes such as illegal logging and mining. Representatives from nongovernmental organizations and multilateral organizations in Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and Spain also showcased new apps used to identify illegally logged wood, certify origins of non-timber products, and map and monitor protected areas and indigenous territories. Watch the Spanish Language session here.

During the second session, Innovation Pathway for a Thriving Amazon, panelists reflected on advances and challenges related to generating useful information that could be used by forest guardians or law enforcement. Sections covered why we should act for the Amazon during the post-pandemic period, a stocktaking report on the accelerated forest loss, the experience of indigenous people working with technology, and the latest satellite launch to picture Earth, deforestation, and climate change. Watch the English language session here.

During the third session, Technology and Public Policy for the protection of the Amazon analyzed the intersection between technology and politics at the regional level with live broadcasts with local government officials from Madre de Dios, Loreto and Ucayali. They showed the advances and challenges related to the use of geospatial technology and inter-institutional coordination to face environmental crimes in the Peruvian Amazon. View the Spanish Language session here.

The fourth session, organized by Amazon Conservation, was Technology, Climate and the Future of the Amazon. Ahead of the UN Climate Conference (COP26), panelists focused on climate and carbon, its effect on Amazonian species, and impacts on local peoples. Speakers revealed whether the Amazon was moving from a carbon sink to a carbon source, how protected areas and indigenous territories are key measures for combating climate change, and the climate mitigation and resilience measures that could be taken to build a stronger Amazon. Watch the English language sesion here. 

The fifth and final sesion, Indigenous Peoples and Technology for the Defense of the Amazon featured indigenous leaders, local communities, representatives of civil society, and forest guardians who seek to ensure that Amazon-appropriate technologies are designed and implemented. View the Spanish Language session here.

These virtual conferences (session 1, 2, 3 and 5) were organized by Conservación Amazónica – ACCA with the support of the United States Embassy in Peru, Norad, NICFI, and in co-creation with USAID Prevent Project, with whom we share the vision of maintaining a prosperous Amazon and the sense of urgency to multiply efforts and partnerships to substantially reduce deforestation by 2030 and eradicate crimes against the forest. To learn more, please visit amazontec.pe .

About AmazonTEC

AmazonTEC2021 is an annual event which brings together national, regional and local authorities, indigenous communities, civil society, academia, and international stakeholders to learn, innovate, and build technological solutions that protect Amazonian forests.



AmazonTEC 2021: Climate, Technology and the Future of the Amazon Recap

This past Wednesday saw the fourth installment of the AmazonTEC virtual conference, Technology, Climate and the Future of the Amazon, where participants discovered how climate and carbon affect the greatest rainforest on the planet. Ahead of the UN Climate Conference (COP26), our panel of environmental experts focused on three relevant areas: climate and carbon, their effect on species, and impact on local peoples. Speakers revealed whether the Amazon was moving from carbon sink to a carbon source, how protected areas and indigenous territories are key measures for combating climate change, and the climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience measures that could be created to create a stronger Amazon. Watch the full English language sesion here. 

Renowned Brazilian scientist and meteorologist Carlos Nobre opened the session with cautionary warnings against the “tipping point” of the Amazon, where so much of the rainforest is deforested that the Amazon can no longer generate its own rainfall and subsequently turns into a savanna. Nobre has done extensive research around this concept as well as coined the term, warning that, “The risk [of reaching the tipping point] is very serious because we are already seeing this in areas of the Amazon, mostly in the southeastern Brazilian Amazon. Many studies are showing that in this region the forests have already become a carbon source [due to the extensive deforestation].”

Manuel Pulgar Vidal, who moderated the session, added that, “When we think about climate, we are talking about the big challenges that we have in front of us…We have to continue developing our actions to adapt and be well adapted to the new reality of the Amazon. We have some nature-based solutions despite political resistance.” He then introduced the first panel presentations, which were about what science and technology are saying about carbon and climate in the Amazon.


Climate And Carbon

During the first section, “Climate and Carbon”, David Gibbs, a GIS Research Associate in Global Forest Watch at World Resources Institute, presented a global overview on carbon flux, which describes the exchange of carbon between different carbon reservoirs. The carbon flux maps he showed were created by researchers around the world and will be updated over time. “We have already updated our map once, we will update it again to include emissions. This is a living model, a living map.” He also noted the importance of global forests as carbon sinks, pointing out, “According to these maps, forests are net carbon sinks. They capture about twice as much carbon globally than they emit.”

Matt Finer, our Director of the Monitoring of the Amazon Project, zoomed into the Amazon to present a regional perspective. “A bit of a shocking finding is that the Brazilian Amazon has flipped to becoming a carbon source, but the good news is that the Amazon as a whole is a carbon sink.” He emphasized that this is due to protected areas and indigenous territories in the Andean Amazon region, saying that, “They are very strong carbon sinks…all of the areas outside of these designations are a strong carbon source.”


Climate Impact on Species

The second section focused on the climate impact on ecosystems, species and people. Daniel Larrea, Science and Technology Program Coordinator at Conservación Amazónica – ACEAA focused on the Brazil nut tree as a key method for conservation. “We have to take into account climate change and its effects and impacts on key forest products like Brazil nuts, which in turn impact local communities. I would like to share a quote…’Before being free it’s necessary to be fair,’ and I think that is something we can apply to nature.”



Climate, Carbon and Local People

The final two panelists presented about the relationship between climate, carbon and local people. Marcos Terán, the Executive Director of Conservación Amazónica – ACEAA explained that Brazil nuts are key to the conservation of Amazonian forests in Bolivia due to the value they give to standing forests. Harvesting naturally growing Brazil nuts provides an economic alternative to local populations that otherwise may choose to deforest the area and turn it into a monoculture. “In terms of Bolivia, we have an increased interest in Brazil nuts, açaí, and other native palms that can be used to strengthen communities’ livelihoods,” he explains. “And when you have a key resource like the Brazil nut, it values standing forest & gives local populations an alternate way to generate income…Standing forest is worth more than the alternative.”

The final presenter  was Carmen Josse, the Executive Director of the Ecuadorian nonprofit EcoCiencia, who provided a comprehensive overview of the distribution of carbon stored aboveground inside and outside the nine-nation network of Amazon indigenous territories and protected areas. She noted, “Amazonian indigenous territories & protected areas store over half of the region’s above ground carbon (58%)…The carbon net loss over 2003-2016 in these areas is only 0.1% inside indigenous territories, 0.6% in protected areas & 3.6% in other land.”



Question and Answer Session

Following the presentations was a question and answer session. One audience member asked Matt Finer, “How effective are indigenous territories & protected areas across the Amazon?” He referenced the findings from a recent MAAP report. “I think the data points to two major keys: maintaining and strengthening protected areas and indigenous territories. That’s where the big movement for the future will be to safeguard more land.”

Carlos Nobre was asked, “What type of global climate action is needed to avoid the ‘tipping point’?,” to which he replied, “Basically we are saying there has to be a moratorium, zero deforestation, zero degradation, zero fires in the Amazon. There needs to be a global movement led by the Amazonian countries.”

To view the full question and answer session and watch the entire presentation, click here.