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Indigenous peoples in Panama learn the use of drones for forest healthcare

With the support of FAO, UN-REDD and the Ministry of Environment, Panama strengthens community forest monitoring in indigenous territories.

Community forest monitoring can generate high accuracy information to improve decision-making and management of territories by indigenous peoples

3 June 2016. – Indigenous representatives from Panama learnt how to use fixed-wing drones for community forest monitoring, with the support of FAO through the UN-REDD program, the Ministry of Environment and indigenous authorities.        

According to FAO, indigenous people, as some of the main forest dwellers, play an invaluable role in monitoring and conserving forests, a fundamental resource for food security.

Throughout May, members of the main indigenous communities of Panama received training on the use of drones and other technologies to track changes in land use that could endanger forest ecosystems. (watch video

Training in drones use is part of the community forest monitoring project for indigenous territories in Panama, which includes theoretical and practical courses, technical support, and the necessary software and equipment. 

“These tools enable us to better know the characteristics and resources we have in our forests and territories”, - said Eliseo Quintero, representative from the Ngabe-Buglé community, adding that the participation of diverse actors and organizations is essential for the protection of natural resources.

According to FAO, community forest monitoring can generate high accuracy information to improve decision-making and management of territories by indigenous peoples, using a standardized methodology and responding to the specific needs of natural resources management for each territory.

“Community forest monitoring allows for adequate management of forests in indigenous territories and strengthens the national Strategy for the Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+)”, said Tito Díaz , FAO’s Coordinator for Mesoamerica.

Eyes in the sky

The main objective of monitoring with drones is to identify changes in specific points of the forest cover, subject to deforestation and degradation pressure, which are only observable with high resolution areal images.

Monitoring with drones can generate information all year long, even during the rainy season. It is also useful for monitoring forest fires, crops and land invasions, allowing fir better management of natural resources in indigenous territories.

The capacity building activities for indigenous people include the design of flight plans, drone assembly and maneuvering, field data collection, image processing and high resolution mapping.

A key resource for food security

More than half of Panama’s territory is covered with forests. According to FAO, sustainable forest management has great potential to contribute to poverty reduction by creating employment, producing food, protecting watersheds and offering other ecosystem services, such as carbon dioxide capture and storage.

The head of the Climate Change Unit of the Ministry of Environment of Panama, Rosilena Lindo, said that, "the national forest monitoring system have the active participation of all stakeholders in the forest sector to be sustainable, as part of our country’s commitment to address the adverse effects of climate change."

She added that last April, Panama presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to the Mitigation of Climate Change.

The country hopes to increase the absorption capacity of the forest sector by over 10%, with the possibility to increase this up to 80% with adequate international financial support.

To achieve this, Panama promotes re-forestation, the management and restoration of ecosystems and community forest monitoring.

FAO is supporting these efforts through one of its three regional priorities, an initiative focused on sustainable management of natural resources, climate change adaptation and disaster risk management in Latin America and the Caribbean, aimed at helping countries to eradicate hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

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