The aim of Forest Forces is to protect nature, the tropical rainforests, its indigenous inhabitants and other traditional or tribal communities living in it. The foundation acts upon the devastating effect of deforestation and its growing threats.
Protected land is only safe when the laws protecting the land are enforced. In reality, illegal activities are omnipresent and difficult to counter. However, Forest Forces supports efforts protecting the land in three ways:
- Supply of tools and equipment for the forest surveillance teams
- Capacity building and empowerment
- Connecting forest communities to the forest law enforcement system
1. Tools and equipment
Land protection requires declarations of illegal activities including verified time and location of the crime. The authorities can only act upon a declaration if it has GPS-coordinates and a time stamp of the logging to verify if it is indeed illegal. The constant present clouds make it difficult to monitor the logging with satellites only. Because of this, providing locals with GPS-camera’s is an effective and inexpensive way to record illegal logging. The pictures, including GPS-coordinates, can be brought to the authorities who can help stop the logging companies.
In this article a research project of three years was conducted, showing the success of the GPS-cameras. By applying knowledge, theories, and insights of criminology, crime science, crime prevention, and criminal justice studies – and by collaborating with (indigenous) forest defenders on the ground, it is possible to make a difference by substantially reducing and sometimes really stopping illegal logging and/or illegal deforestation.
2. Capacity building and empowerment
The Amazon forest can not be protected without the indigenous inhabitants. Therefore it is important that the indigenous people share their experiences and effective methods (best practice). Forest Forces facilitates the exchange of knowledge and experiences amongst chiefs and forest protectors of different indigenous communities.
3. Access to Justice
Forest Forces helps indigenous communities to get access to justice and the forest law enforcement system when they want to report illegal activities in their region. Practically this means Forest Forces is supporting chiefs of indigenous communities to make the long trip to travel to town, where they can contact the authorities to report illegal logging and deforestation. For the law enforcement authorities this is also very helpful, because they don’t have the capacity to protect and check the whole Amazon forest themselves.
- Forest Forces is about protecting nature by making alliances: connecting local and national justice forces, supported by international forces.
- Forest Forces combines (ancient) local knowledge from indigenous communities with (modern) scientific knowledge, like criminology and GPS technology.
- They apply scientific concepts and best practices of criminology in order to combat and especially prevent forest and wildlife crime, based on the criminological concept of situational crime prevention.
The idea of GPS supported community-based forest monitoring and forest crime prevention was born during a scientific green criminology project in Brazil (2010-2016), funded by the Dutch NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development Program. It was set up in collaboration with Brazilian universities and NGOs to identify and reduce social and environmental harm, including crime. The development strategy focused on access to justice and improving the rule of law.
In 2014, we first equipped various traditional communities that live near deforestation hotspots with water proof GPS cameras, solar chargers and power bank. It allows them to take pictures of illegal forest activities.
The activities of Forest Forces are possible thanks to funding by a crowd; initially by alumni from Utrecht University, followed by donations from people from different countries – so far, mainly Brazil and The Netherlands.
Forest Forces has existed as an informal network since 2014. In 2018 Forest Forces became an official entity: Forest Forces is registered as a non-profit Foundation in Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Stichting Forest Forces).