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Earth Observations for Indigenous-led Land Management

A NASA-backed approach combines tech with tradition on the front lines of conservation

© Patricia M. Dunne

 

For millennia, indigenous peoples have used traditional practices to protect the nature they depend on. But their lands face new and rapidly growing pressures in the face of climate breakdown and development.

Though data from satellites, drones and sensors could help track threats to indigenous lands, from illegal logging to mining, many indigenous peoples lack access to this technology.

Until now.

By the numbers

30% of land

Indigenous peoples use or manage more than a quarter of Earth's surface, yet represent just 5 percent of the world's population.

80% of biodiversity

Indigenous lands overlap with 80 percent of the planet's biodiversity.

300 billion metric tons of carbon

Forests inhabited by indigenous peoples store six times the amount of all human-caused carbon emissions in 2018.

How we work

Women of the Awajun Native Community of Shampuyacu (Peru)
© CI/photo by Freddy Guillen

In partnership with NASA, Conservation International’s new Earth Observations for Indigenous-led Land Management (EO4IM) project aims to put technologically advanced monitoring tools — and the training to use those tools — in the hands of indigenous peoples.

Conservation International is piloting the EO4IM program with the Awajún people of Peru and the Achuar Nation of Ecuador — two indigenous groups whose land is increasingly vulnerable to encroachment from new migrant settlements and illegal logging. 

Through a collaborative process including in-person assessments of community needs, training courses and a NASA webinar series, the EO4IM program enables indigenous peoples to use geospatial technology — tools to map and monitor Earth’s geographies — to address threats to their lands. 

Based on these pilot programs, Conservation International will develop targeted training materials and technologies to support indigenous peoples as they build on their existing knowledge of nature to help face modern threats to their lands. 

Conserving and sustainably managing indigenous land is critical for reducing climate-warming carbon emissions, improving resilience to climate breakdown, protecting wildlife and conserving the heritage of indigenous cultures around the world.

 

We have many challenges with colonizers in our territories who destroy our forests and resources, and technology can help us. Our communities are traditional, yes, but we can learn to use these tools through this project and they will help us manage our lands. 

Awajún leader

 

Publications