Internet in the Amazon allows Indigenous communities to act promptly on COVID-19
In 2020, Indigenous Amazonian communities implemented a self-imposed lockdown as protection against the rapid spread of COVID-19. During the lockdown, recently-installed satellite Internet proved to be a lifesaver. Through this Internet connectivity, the Indigenous representative organisation, Coharyima, was instantly able to reach and coordinate with its base communities on how to self-isolate, restrict entry of travellers and follow health guidelines. Had it not been for the Internet installations, it would have taken days or weeks for such messages to be communicated.
In Peru, many communities are affected by the effects of top-down climate and conservation policies on the ground. They need to defend their territories, not only from extractive industries such as illegal logging and toxic gold mining but also from so-called “carbon pirates” who approach communities to sell unregulated carbon offsetting schemes on unfavourable and fraudulent terms. In order to defend their rights, forest and territory, these communities need to be able to communicate with each other and with the external world. According to the news agency Servindi, however, census figures from 2017 shows that only 6.7% of the some 2,700 Indigenous communities in Peru have access to the Internet and 57% lack telecommunication services.
In late 2019, IWGIA facilitated the installation of solar-powered satellite Internet in 10 Indigenous communities of the Madre de Dios region of Peru. This was done to strengthen Coharyima’s access to its 17 base communities so that they could organise common advocacy approaches to climate policy and land rights defence. Shortly thereafter, the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, and the population of the remote Amazon regions of Peru was among the hardest hit. “It is an important tool which we now have in the community and very useful in these times of Covid. We are very thankful to Coharyima,” stated Nancy Manqueriapa Ramos, a young woman leader from the Santa Rosa de Huacaria community.
In an effort to give voice to and empower affected Indigenous communities, IWGIA has supported partners Servindi, Onamiap and Coharyima to build capacity at community level to ensure their effective engagement in national-level climate policy processes. Support is provided through capacity-building workshops, support for Indigenous community radio stations and, more recently, through an online learning platform, “Learning with Servindi”, which is tailormade for Indigenous women, men and youth at community level. To strengthen this work, IWGIA supported the installation of solar-powered satellite Internet in 10 communities and provided them with laptops and desktop computers. This experience has been a positive one, with the additional unexpected but important outcome of proving to be a lifesaver when COVID-19 swept Peru.
This article is a highlight from IWGIA's Annual Report 2020, download the full report and read about our work.