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Community Monitoring: great debates and local actions

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ExCiteS’ poster at the Seminar

I have just attended the International Seminar on Participatory Monitoring for the Management of Biodiversity and Natural Resources that occurred between September 22-26, in Manaus – Brazil, and was organised by the Brazilian Ministry of Environment (MMA) and the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio). The Seminar aimed at promoting and strengthening participatory monitoring as a key element for the management and conservation of biodiversity and natural resources by seeking guidelines for local involvement in these initiatives. It gathered internationally recognized academics, practitioners, community members and government officials involved in monitoring initiatives from several countries in the world.

The Seminar was divided in two parts, with the first part extended over two days dedicated to the creation of a Participatory Monitoring and Management Partnership – PMMP  – between different stakeholders involved in participatory monitoring. During those two days, structural aspects for the creation of the Partnership were discussed, such as the governance system and potential activities it could develop. The meeting resulted in a series of recommendations from the participants that will be further synthesized in order to have a consolidated proposal for the Partnership.

The following three days were dedicated to: the exchange of experiences of community involvement in biodiversity and natural resources monitoring initiatives; a debate about the main internationally identified themes related to community involvement in biodiversity and natural resources monitoring initiatives; and on providing technical and political inputs for the formulation of recommendations to guide the participatory monitoring of biodiversity and natural resources.

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Finn Danielsen

One of the keynote speakers at the event was Finn Danielsen, from the Nordic Agency for Development and Ecology (Nordeco). In one of his speeches, he highlighted six aspects that make participatory monitoring with local communities work, which are when:

  1. the monitored resources are important to local people;
  2. the information collected have the potential to impact how people can manage the resources;
  3. there are clear links to existing local management regimes;
  4. there are policies that allow decision-making and acceptance by the government;
  5. the scheme organisation is supported; and
  6. the key motivation is to protect local rights over land and resources.

Other keynote speakers included Rod Kennet, from the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, who develops work with indigenous rangers using Indigenous Tracker (“I-Tracker”), based on Cyber Tracker software, and José Fragoso, who is a biologist and senior scientist at Stanford University. There was also the marketplace space, where several monitoring experiences were presented by the participants, and where I presented the ExCiteS initiative.

In the closing of the event, directors of the ICMBio made a speech, and their words reflected their intention to strengthen and legitimise the work of participatory monitoring in governmental initiatives. This a very important step in the recognition of the relevance of local communities’ knowledge and ability to monitor and protect their land and resources.

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Meeting with the Gavião

After the Seminar, I embarked on a journey to Igarapé Lourdes indigenous land, in Rondônia State, where another seminar was taking place. But this time it was not about macro level discussions. The meeting that happened between September 29 and October 3 was about the construction of a strategy to implement the Gavião people’s management plan of their land. The meeting gathered a number of potential partners that are willing to support this process, such as the Environmental Research Institute of the Amazon (Ipam) and Forest Trends.

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Igarapé Lourdes indigenous land: an island of forest

During the days of discussion with the communities, special attention was paid to the debates about climate change and its impacts on their environment and about how the community can receive external support for the role they play in preserving the forest. Indeed, Igarapé Lourdes is becoming an island of forest in the middle of numerous pressures from deforestation, farms and villages nearby.

The result of the meeting was a series of recommendations by the community on the activities they are willing to develop according to their management plan and a commitment by the potential partners to search for support and to establish a working group for the implementation of those activities. ExCiteS is possibly going to help them in monitoring climate change in their territory, according to their views and perceptions of changes in their environment.

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