Remote labs protecting rainforests from fires

Papua New Guinea, Wabumari. Image: Cool Earth

Did you know there are tiny labs dotted around some of the world’s most remote rainforests?

They are part of the Rainforest Lab programme, from international NGO Cool Earth, which is working to protect the forests and communities from threats such as illegal logging and wildfires.

The initiative trains teams of forest monitors in Indigenous communities and provides them with the technology they need to access data on the state of their rainforests.

Forest monitors are given wifi access, digital devices, electricity and a base of operations for starters. The data then allows them to identify threats, so necessary steps towards finding solutions can be taken quickly.

Following two successful forest monitoring projects in Peru – in Hauracayo and Oviri – the programme is now working with communities in Papua New Guinea.

"Filling the information gap will arm our partners with the data they need to tackle not just fires, but other threats to their forest."

Matt Proctor, Cool Earth
Rainforest lab construction. Image: Cool Earth

Matt Proctor, Cool Earth forest impacts lead, said, “Satellites can pick up on fires from space in almost real-time. Amazing, right?

"We in the west are told how bad these fires are every year by academics and news outlets, but detailed information reaching local and Indigenous peoples is so much more useful. Filling this gap in the chain of information will arm our partners with the news, data and support they need to tackle not just fires, but other threats to their forest, livelihoods and lives.”

Papua New Guinea’s first Rainforest Lab is being built in the Indigenous community of Wabumari. As in Peru, this lab will involve training up a team of forest monitors and providing them with all the equipment and technology they need to monitor their rainforest and any threats to their land.

Liddie Lemaile, a resident of Wabumari, said, “It is important because it benefits the community by educating local youth, including primary and secondary schools and university students on the state of our land and the importance of our rainforest. It also helps the community to earn an income.”

Image: Cool Earth

Cool Earth is aiming to establish more Rainforest Labs and monitoring programmes in future. In Peru, this includes partnering with an Indigenous organisation called Central Asháninka del Río Ene, which is working to prevent and fight forest fires. Eight labs are being planned in communities located along the Ene Valley in the Amazon rainforest, including Parijaro and Camantavishi.

The organisations are also working on a project called PAAMARI, which focuses on training teams in 19 communities in the Ene River basin to detect and extinguish fires, improving fire management practices and providing a monitoring and reporting centre.

Papua New Guinea, Wabumari. Image: Cool Earth