Marcelina Gamarra Uses Drones to Protect Peruvian Forests

Photo of Marcelina, drone pilotEvery morning, Marcelina Gamarra opens her business of selling wooden cutting boards in the city of Puerto Maldonado and sits down to barter with her clients. However, during the 5-month harvest season in Peru, she focuses almost exclusively on the sustainable harvesting of Brazil nuts. “I collect the nuts from my dad’s concession, going deep into our forests to get them. I have always supported my dad and my family this way. With the money from the harvesting, we have been able to grow and expand to other activities like creating the wooden boards,” explains Marcelina. Her father was one of the first Brazil nut extractors in the area, but since losing his sight, he depends on the support of his 48-year-old daughter to survive.

Marcelina, drone pilot wide shot“Here, the fear I have is that squatters will enter our forest concession and begin destroying it. What would happen if they make our forest into farms, set it on fire for agriculture and that fire leaves us without Brazil nuts?” Forest fires are already exacerbated in the dry season in the region because people take advantage of the lack of rains to burn pastures or felled forest to make spaces for livestock. Generating these fires is prohibited by law, but many ignore these regulations as the government often cannot gather evidence of this illegal activity to prosecute offenders.

“Now that I know how to fly the drone, I can see that others do not enter my forest to destroy it and I can help my neighbors do the same.” Marcelina has been trained and certified as a drone pilot, and has Photo of Marcelina, drone pilotreceived all the technology she needed to do regular surveillance of her forest remotely, including a Mavic 2 drone, an iPhone 7 plus to run satellite monitoring smartphone apps, a computer and a printer.

“I never thought I’d be using drones to patrol my forests and keep my family’s future safe, but I’m excited that I can take on this role with the help of Amazon Conservation.”

Special thanks to The Sheldon and Audrey Katz Foundation for their generous support that makes this project possible.

Drones Empower Community Members to Take Part in Reporting and Stopping Crimes Against Their Forests

southwest amazon drone center
Our Southwest Amazon Drone Center is training local landowners, forest users, indigenous communities, students, and government officials to use cutting-edge satellite, smartphone, and drone technology to monitor and stop deforestation. We provide local people with the technology, knowledge, legal support, and connections they need to safely and effectively take action.

In 2019, we trained and certify 89 individuals in using drones and smartphone apps to detect illegal activities in remote areas of their forests, and report them using drone imagery as legally-admissible evidence for law enforcement to be able to take action and prosecute offenders.

Marcelina, Drone pilotSixteen of the new users were women, and their numbers continue to increase as we focus on their inclusion in this type of training. We also trained and helped the local association of forest users known as ACOMAT in carrying out 26 patrols using their newly-acquired technological capabilities (drones, satellite imagery and/or mobile applications). These patrols detected 16 incidents of illegal activity in 9 areas, and a total of 5 criminal complaints were filed with the local government of the Madre de Dios region of Peru, which are currently being addressed by the authorities. We were also able to hold six specialized trainings for volunteer community park guards (called Forest Custodians), who combine our technology with their traditional foot patrols inside protected areas.

southwest amazon drone center photo of logging
Drone footage of illegal logging in the area

Beyond directly providing the actual drone and smartphone technology to these communities and individuals, we also provide continued training, certifications, and drone maintenance workshops to support their long-term fight to keep forests protected. This approach has been become so successful that it is known as the “ACOMAT Model” in Peru, and, due to its high demand, we are beginning to replicate it in other areas of Peru in addition to making it available to other countries in the Amazon.

All in all, this work marks a key first step for communities to effectively engage the government and compel them to take action by providing clear evidence of illegal activities in a timely (meaning in real time – while the illegal activity is still going on), cost effective, high-tech way.

Click here to read how ACOMAT members were recently able to detect illegal logging via drones.

Special thanks to The Sheldon and Audrey Katz Foundation, the members of the Cloud Appreciation Society, the
Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, and all individuals and organizations whose generous support made this project possible.