Indigenous Communities Fight Back with Drones

Rainforest Foundation US (RFUS) is in the news! We are training indigenous communities to use drones to monitor deforestation across their territories. Now, our work is being recognized by the United Nations.

How Do Drones Combat Deforestation?

  • Drones capture incursions even as they are happening, giving the government the exact coordinates of illegal activity and the evidence they need to apprehend illegal loggers.
  • Drones enable mapping of indigenous territories, which can then be used to pressure governments to recognize their land rights.
  • Drones minimize direct confrontations with armed criminals by gathering data safely from the air.

“The main objective of monitoring with drones is to identify changes in specific points of the forest cover,” the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a statement on Wednesday. “The monitoring is carried out in areas under deforestation and degradation pressure, which are only observable with high resolution spatial images.”

Indigenous people make up nearly 13 percent of Panama’s population of 4 million, with about 200,000 living on autonomous tribal lands, known as comarcas. “These tools enable us to better know the forests’ characteristics and resources we have in our territories,” Eliseo Quintero, a leader of the Ngabe-Buglé tribe, said in a statement.

The current FAO drone project began in February and is being carried out through the U.N.’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Programme (UN-REDD), in partnership with Panama’s environment ministry and RFUS.

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Didier Devers
Chief of Party – USAID Guatemala

Didier has been coordinating the USAID-funded B’atz project since joining Rainforest Foundation US in April 2022. He holds a Master’s in Applied Anthropology and a Bachelor’s in Geography. Before joining the organization, Didier worked for 12 years in Central and South America on issues of transparency, legality, governance, and managing stakeholders’ processes in the environmental sector. Prior to that he worked on similar issues in Central Africa. He speaks French, Spanish, and English, and is based in Guatemala.