Supporting Forest-Based Economies Through Research at our Amazon Fruit and Climate Change Observatory

In January 2022, we launched the Observatory of Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change in the Amazonian department of Pando, Bolivia. The Observatory is the culmination of a 10-month project in collaboration with local Bolivian organizations such as the Inter-Institutional Platform for Articulation of Productive Complexes of Amazonian Fruits (PICFA) and the Departamental Federation of Açai and Amazonian Fruit Harvesters of Pando (FEDAFAP) that focuses on strengthening the management of non-timber forest products in the Bolivian Amazon rainforest such as açaí, Brazil nuts, cacao and copoazu. Not only do non-timber forest products help prevent deforestation by elevating the value of standing forests, but the diversification of fruits also helps local communities mitigate and adapt to climate change while strengthening their income.

The Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change Observatory is a virtual repository that compiles and shares important information on Amazonian forest products such as Brazil nuts, açaí, cacao, copoazu, majo, and royal palm. Additionally, GIS specialists at the observatory utilize high-resolution satellites to monitor the effects of climate change and the state of the forests in the region. The Observatory also produces market research on the value chains of the region’s main Amazonian fruits and works to develop tools that allow the socio-economic monitoring of a specific harvesters’ initiative and production. Users are also granted access to a compilation of documents with information relevant to climate change and forest-sector-related public policies.

Through the Observatory of Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change, local producers are able to access and share important information, giving them the latest tools, research, and processing protocols to ensure that their products are competitive and reach their highest market-value potential. To spread awareness and build capacity among local communities in utilizing this platform, we have hosted events for producers and harvesters in Pando to provide training and space to share critical solutions that help these communities adapt to the changing climate that increasingly impacts the primary livelihoods for many in the region.

In June, we hosted a webinar that had more than 100 participants from across Pando who joined to learn how to access and utilize the resources, information and technology available through the Observatory. Through the webinar, we also introduced a user’s guide for how to best utilize the Observatory of Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change, which can be accessed in Spanish here. We also presented important research that corrects misinformation about the link between açai and the parasite causing Chagas disease in the region, which helps establish early detection measures to control and prevent the spread of diseases like Chagas in the processing of Amazonian fruits.

In Pando, the Observatory stands to directly benefit around 87,500 people linked to the harvest of Amazonian fruits, including indigenous and local communities, and nine local enterprises. Thanks to this important center for research and and information sharing, deforestation and destructive harvesting techniques are comparatively low in Pando when compared to surrounding regions of the Amazon, making Pando a refuge for lowland wildlife and forest species.

This project would not be possible without the support of the EUROCLIMA+ program. For more information about the Observatory of Amazonian Fruits and Climate Change, please visit the website here.



Scaling Across the Wider Amazon with New Partners in Ecuador and Venezuela

Thanks to our strategic collaboration with organizations Fundación EcoCiencia in Ecuador and SOS Orinoco in Venezuela, we saw two great successes with reports from our Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Program (MAAP), that resulted in on-the-ground action taken against illegal mining in the Amazon.

Together with EcoCiencia, we published a report revealing the alarming illegal mining expansion of 173 acres (70 hectares) over four months in Yutzupino, located in the Ecuadorian Amazon’s Napo province. Though the Ecuadorian government carried out a field intervention in January to confirm the illegal activity, it continued to advance, increasing by at least 15 acres (6 hectares).

Following the publication of this report, citizen demonstrations against illegal mining activity took place in Tena, the capital city of Napo. Local residents participated in a march against illegal mining, alongside representatives of the organization COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin), which advocates for indigenous peoples at the regional and international level, and CONFENIAE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon), a regional organization of indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Satellite images from this report, showing the alarming side-by-side of increased deforestation, were printed on banners for this march alongside the hashtags in Spanish, “Napo Without Mining”, “Napo Values Life”, and “Napo Resists”. Investigations into those responsible were started at the request of several local organizations.







Satellite image of illegal mining camps atop Cerro Yapacana in Venezuela

With support from SOS Orinoco, we published MAAP reports #156 and #169 exposing illegal mining operations on top of a sacred mountain in a protected national park in Venezuela. These reports caught the attention of The Washington Post who then published their own article on December 6, 2022, detailing the mining operations using work by our MAAP team.

Two weeks after the publication of the article in the Post, on December 20, 2022, a troop of the Venezuelan Armed Forces (FANB) raided the camp dismantling the mining camps and destroying mining equipment. At time of writing we are still waiting to see if legal actions or investigations will be taken against those responsible.








Strengthening Sustainable Livelihoods

We work to strengthen sustainable livelihoods that empower indigenous peoples to adapt to the impacts of climate change and preserve their ancestral forests.

Geronimo Meshi Guahogehua is one of dozens of Amazonian producers from the Palma Real indigenous community in southeast Peru who has seen the impacts of climate change on their livelihoods in a big way.

In 2017, Brazil nut production fell 53% due to the previous year’s drought, an event never before experienced that exposed the vulnerability of these communities to increasing climate risks. However, the demand for Brazil nuts and other forest goods – like açaí and cacao – continues to skyrocket.

“Brazil nut harvesting is important to me because it is a sustainable job that we can do every year. The Brazil nut harvest here in Peru is unique because it doesn’t have any contamination – it can only take place in forests where no pollution reaches it. So we harvest Brazil nuts for our families, for our children, so they can study and have more opportunities in life.” – Geronimo Meshi Guahogehua, indigenous Brazil nut producer.

Bolstering climate-smart agricultural practices is key to preventing deforestation and depletion of natural resources. Maintaining healthy forests is not only environmentally important but also economically imperative, as the productive forests in and around the Palma Real community in Peru provide a sustainable and forest-friendly income to numerous families.

Your support is key to providing Geronimo with the information and tools needed to implement climate-smart solutions that help his community build on the forest’s potential, mitigate the threats posed by climate change, and protect the livelihoods of families in Palma Real.









Our Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) featured in Washington Post

On December 6, 2022, the Washington Post published an article detailing intense illegal mountain-top mining in the supposedly protected national park of Yapacana in the Venezuelan Amazon. The authors, Samantha Schmidt, Ana Vanessa Herrero, and Janice Kai Chen, explain that Cerro Yapacana, revered as a sacred site by indigenous groups in this region of Venezuela and known as a tepui, or “house of God,” has in fact become the largest site of illegal gold mining in the northern Amazon, especially within an otherwise protected natural area.

Satellite image of illegal mining camps atop Cerro Yapacana in Venezuela

Cerro Yapacana, a 4,415 sandstone butte, is home to wildlife species that are not found anywhere else in the world and are now in great danger thanks to the encroaching mining activity and the expansion of small city camps being constructed on the table-top of this uniquely biodiverse mountain.

Our team of GIS specialists and researchers with the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) have been monitoring this activity for quite some time and have published reports #156 and #169 covering this exact activity. The Washington Post reached out to our Director of MAAP, Dr. Matt Finer, for comments and expertise. Dr. Finer echoed the surprise at the “stunning density” of the camps and equipment saying that he has, “…never seen anything like it, especially in a national park.”

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Read the Washington Post article HERE



Helping communicators tell the story of the Amazon


An important element of our work is to build the next generation of conservationists, who can tell the stories of the Amazon to local, national, and international audiences. Our Peruvian sister organization Conservación Amazónica – ACCA hosted a workshop for 15 members of the Cusco Environmental Communicators Network, who had the opportunity to visit and learn about the conservation and research work carried out at our Wayqecha Biological Station located in the cloud forests of Peru, just four hours from Machu Picchu. 

The communicators took a tour that began at the Andean Bear Interpretation Center, an ideal place for environmental education and citizen science that connects people with nature through displays of this iconic species. Researchers from Conservación Amazónica – ACCA presented the work they have been doing on the habitat and behavior of the Andean bear. Then they walked along the “Canopy Walkway”, our one-of-a-kind suspension bridge from where you can see nature differently from the height of the treetops.

By the end of their visit, the group had gained valuable insight into life in the rainforest and how to communicate key challenges of the Amazon, gaining also a lifetime appreciation of all that the forest provides and simply is.


The Tipping Point in the Amazon: Recap

On Thursday, December 1st, Amazon Conservation and the World Bank’s Amazon Sustainable Landscapes initiative co-hosted a webinar on the tipping point in the Amazon. The webinar featured expert panelists from government entities, conservation nonprofits, and indigenous groups.

The webinar brought to light some of the latest findings regarding what the tipping point actually is, how close we are to reaching it, and what that means for the Amazon, its inhabitants, and the world. It has been increasingly reported that the largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon, is rapidly approaching its tipping point. As highlighted by Carlos Nobre and our late Board Member and renowned scientist Tom Lovejoy, this tipping point is where parts of the rainforest will convert into drier ecosystems due to disrupted precipitation patterns and more intense dry seasons, both exacerbated by deforestation and climate change.

The impacts within the Amazon and beyond its boundaries can be catastrophic for both people and nature, upsetting a balance that local people have depended on for millennia as they shaped their lives around its climate, the economic foundation that its forests and waters make possible, and the ecosystem services (carbon sink, fresh water, etc.) that it provides to millions across a vast continent.


The Presenters

Dr. Matt Finer, Senior Research Specialist at Amazon Conservation and Director of MAAP, presented a novel look at the phenomenon and suggests that we should actually be thinking about 2 tipping points in the Amazon – the now well-known “point of no return” from a rainforest ecosystem to that of one more closely resembling a dry savanna, AND the Amazon going from a carbon sink to a carbon source.






To put this novel idea into perspective, attendees first heard from Dr. Carlos Nobre, premier meteorologist, ecologist, and co-chair of the Science Panel for the Amazon. Dr. Nobre explained that while we may be quickly approaching the tipping point, there are strategies to avoid reaching it, saying, “Restoring traditional forest functions and fusing new and traditional scientific knowledge will help us prevent a catastrophic tipping point. Recognizing and enforcing indigenous rights is critical.”

Attendees also heard from Carlos Ardila Espinosa, Representative from the Congress of Colombia, who provided invaluable insight into how conservation efforts are conceptualized in legislation. Representative Espinosa offered an example from the Putumayo department of Colombia where it is already evident that acknowledging and respecting indigenous peoples’ rights to their own territories allows not only restorative transformations to the forest to occur; but also provides the space for more diverse forest-based economies to take hold which ultimately fosters forest conservation. Representative Espinosa offered this important question, “How can we raise the value of 1 hectare of forest to equal or surpass 1 hectare that has been cleared for pasture? This is an integral hurdle to incentivizing conservation in legislation.”


Ana María González Velosa, Senior Environmental Specialist with the World Bank provided moderation for the event and Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, fresh home from attending the COP27 in Egypt, left attendees with his closing remarks emphasizing the urgency with which conservation in the Amazon must be addressed.



Training the Next Generation of Indigenous Leaders in Satellite Monitoring


As part of our approach to employ science and technology for conservation, we provide satellite training to the next generation of conservation heroes so they can use this cutting-edge technology to patrol their forest homes quickly, safely, and cheaply. After 7 months of training in satellite monitoring, 23 indigenous youth in the Bolivian Amazon successfully completed the course and made final presentations of their theses.

The young people of San Jose de Uchupiamonas and Tacana I strengthened their skills in territorial management for control, surveillance, and local security through the use of technologies for the protection of their territories. The trainees added that the knowledge and tools gained through the training are beneficial for the defense of their ancestral territories, which will help facilitate patrolling that previously was carried out on foot over many days. 

The “Satellite Monitoring and Capacity Building to Support Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities – Green Amazon” project was implemented by our sister Conservación Amazonica – ACEAA and Conservación Internacional Bolivia. 






Using Drones to Protect Uncontacted Indigenous Peoples’ Territories

We’re helping protect the forest homes of Indigenous groups in voluntary isolation against incursions and unwanted contact with the modern world.

Keeping their forests safe and intact is essential for their survival. 



The Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve in Peru, where our Los Amigos Conservation Concession is located, is home to various communities of Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation or Initial Contact (often referred to by the Spanish acronym PIACI), like the Mashco Piro. These communities have maintained their autonomy and freedom with spears, arrows, and a nomadic lifestyle of hunting and gathering for centuries with no contact with the western world due to previous traumatic contact experiences. They have no fixed villages, no agriculture, and shun contact with the modern world. The forest they depend on is among the most remote, intact, and biodiverse rainforests in the Amazon and the world, and we are fighting to keep it that way. 




Together with the Frankfurt Zoological Society of Peru (FZS Peru), our sister organization, Conservación Amazónica – ACCA, organized a training workshop on drone surveillance, protocols and procedures, and GPS applications so that park rangers in the Madre de Dios region can better monitor where these communities are without encroaching on their territories. These communities must remain intact and uncontacted out of respect for their rights, ancestral lifestyle, and the health of the forested areas they inhabit. The training provides these park rangers with the tools needed to safely monitor their territory for any incursions or threats.













Putting Science and Technology to Work at our Biological Stations in Peru

Establishing the first state-of-the-art genomics lab in the Amazon.


All of our biological stations in Peru feature laboratories equipped with cutting-edge technology for scientists and students to conduct research.

Recently, Jhakelin Reyes Vasquez, a Peruvian scientist, has been working in the Wildlife Conservation Laboratory studying genomics and collecting data on zoonotic diseases. Your support allows laboratories like this to exist. Using these tools, we can more closely and accurately monitor the health of the forest and its wildlife inhabitants at a closer scale and do it all on-site with our own equipment – allowing our biological stations to become important sites for science throughout the Amazon.

There is much still undiscovered in the Amazon. This one-of-a-kind lab enables scientists to conduct cutting-edge studies on advanced wildlife genomics and monitoring of key species right in the heart of the Amazon without the delay, cost, and complications of transporting samples to bigger labs. By safely taking DNA samples of wildlife and domestic animals in the region – without harming or killing any animals and following strict security protocols –scientists at the Wildlife Conservation Laboratory will monitor the health and disease status of a range of species, including frogs, snakes, and monkeys, even plant life. To achieve this, some of the scientific activities carried out at the Laboratory include sample bio-banking, expanding biological archives for the Amazon rainforest, field testing pathogens and environmental contaminants, and developing sequencing solutions for population monitoring of key species. 

Your support can create opportunities like the Wildlife Conservation Laboratory for local scientists like Jhakelin so that cutting-edge scientific research is not simply a top-down effort, but rather one that is home-grown and fosters the next generation of biologists.









Empowering Future Generations of Conservationists

We believe empowering people starts with the youngest generations of future forest friends.

Our innovative programs allow people like Rosa Quete to establish protected areas where education, conservation, and play come together to make a lasting impact on young learners.

In the community of Motacusal, Rosa Quete established and leads the Bosque de Niños (Children’s Forest), which she hopes will serve as an example of effective sustainable agroforestry practices for youth and a source of knowledge sharing between generations. 

Motacusal is the first community with this type of forest, which covers over 116 acres of forest set aside strictly for the children of Motacusal. With access to their own protected area, the children can experience first-hand all that the forest provides and gain a better understanding of the importance of protecting for the present and future health of the greater environment around them.

Thanks to your support, Rosa can promote education as a means to empower future leaders — especially young women — to preserve the forest’s natural biodiversity through sustainable agroforestry.