How mapping indigenous land leads to climate action – mapping workshop on the Wampís territory, October 2019

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Recently, one of Size’s project coordinators, Anna joined Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and Digital Democracy on a mapping and monitoring workshop in Soledad, a village within the Wampís’ 1.3million hectare territory within the Peruvian Amazon.

The purpose of the three-day workshop was to introduce participants to a new mapping and monitoring app called Mapeo, designed and developed by Digital Democracy who have developed the tool in pilots with FPP and other partners in the Amazon over several years. The workshop was attended by men, women, youth and elders from the Wampís people, along with delegates from other indigenous communities across Peru and Colombia.

One thing that defines an Indigenous community as such, is their sense of connectivity to their lands, and their earth-centric (rather than human-centric) approach to living and life. It is no coincidence that indigenous lands are some of the most intact habitat remaining on this planet.

Very often these lands are rich in resources, which leaves the rights and protections of both the lands and the people vulnerable to exploitation and violation. Indigenous peoples’ territories are under constant threat from a range of activities such as mining, unsustainable farming, and logging, all key drivers of deforestation.

Mapeo has been designed specially to give indigenous communities without access to the internet or specialist mapping technology, the means to map their lands; it enables them to monitor and crucially, gives them control over what to publish about activity where the community has not given their free, prior and informed consent regarding the developments.

The app uses geospatial technology and works offline. Previously this has been a real limitation for indigenous communities in trying to map their territory as they may not have regular access to the internet. The development of this offline app has the additional and very important benefit of allowing communities to own their own data. A blog on the Digital Democracy website explains “This improves the conditions for agency, long-term preservation, and user control, and has the potential to shift the dominant paradigm of how technology is built.” With this data, communities are now equipped to take cases to their government, or to court.

Workshops and developments in technology such as this, are empowering indigenous forest communities to protect their lands from deforestation, degradation and contamination. The Wampís territory is 1.3million hectares of ancient, beautiful and vital tropical forest. It makes up a portion of the Amazon which we often refer to as the lungs of the earth.

The better equipped communities are to protect their ancestral lands, the greater the ability of people such as the Wampís to be autonomous and self-governing is bolstered. It also means the world is able to better cope with this spike in emissions we’ve been seeing since the Industrial Revolution that is driving the climate breakdown.

Note from Anna: It was a really fascinating and inspiring few days. I left feeling full of positivity as what I had seen was an intensive 3-day workshop where at the end the participants were empowered. Additionally, it was great to see bonds forming between members from different indigenous communities as they shared knowledge and experiences.

The project benefits from the support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation –

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