SMART: WWF brings to Brazil unprecedented technology to strengthen conservation efforts in the protected areas of the Amazon
SMART technology optimizes the use of protected areas data and information
By Jorge Eduardo Dantas
Environment government officials, protected area managers, traditional communities, scientists, and wildlife researchers have at their disposal a new tool that promises to strengthen nature conservation efforts in Brazil: SMART, an open source software which optimizes the collection and use of data on protected areas.
SMART (which stands for "Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool") is an open source software developed by agencies and conservation organizations around the globe concerned with improving management effectiveness and protection of protected areas.
Through this tool, it is possible to collect, store, communicate and analyze data on biodiversity, as well as on illegal activities and patrol routes. SMART enables multiple field activities to be cataloged, enabling real-time alerts, recording of various types of information in the same database. Download the tool here
Moreover, information such as time spent on field trips, areas covered and distances, traps removed and violations, among others, can be recorded at SMART and made available to the technicians and managers involved in that action.
Furthermore, SMART has also given rise to a specific approach, bringing together databases, capabilities, and a set of protection standards. Around 600 protected areas in 55 countries around the world have used these tools.
Recently, WWF-Brazil has promoted two actions to adapt and bring this tool to Brazil: a workshop with managers of Protected Areas of the state of Amazonas and a visit of some of these managers to Colombia, where SMART is already part of the daily life of its protected areas.
These actions are part of a broader initiative to make SMART technology available to Portuguese-speaking countries worldwide - which in general have large areas of tropical forests, vast coastal areas and few resources for the management of these areas.
Held in the Environmental Protection Area (APA) of Rio Negro, near the city of Manaus, the workshop had 30 participants, including managers from the State Secretariat for the Environment (Sema-AM), the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), and agents of the Waimiri Atroari Indigenous Environmental Protection Program. WCS, member of the SMART Global Network, was also present at the event.
The participants underwent theoretical and practical training on the use of SMART and discussions that revolved around how the tool can improve the work of monitoring the territories. The workshop lasted three days and was held at the Três Unidos Indigenous Community, a Kambeba ethnic group area.
Additionally, as part of the SMART implementation process in Brazil, WWF-Brasil supported Sema-AM managers trip to Colombia to learn how the tool has been used in the neighboring country. The managers of Colombian parks have used SMART technology since 2013. It is currently applied in 58 protected areas in Colombia.
The visit included meetings in the country's official organ of management of protected areas of that country, Parques Nacionales Colombia; talks with field staff, managers, and a visit to Parque Natural Nacional Chingaza - a protected area located in central Colombia and responsible for part of the water supply of Bogotá, the country's capital. The exchange agenda also featured meetings with local WWF and WCS teams.
Broadening the activities
The manager of Protecte Areas of the State Department of the Environment of Amazonas, Kleber Bechara, believes that SMART can help in the analysis of data of protected areas, completely transforming the management processes. "Also, it is possible to collect data on tourism in protected areas, with park users and traditional communities helping in data collection," he said.
Responsible for ethnic-environmental preservation actions in the Waimiri Atroari Indigenous Land, Messias Serrão said that the SMART tool allows the expansion of protection activities and will contribute to improving the quality of data collection and analysis: "We will have bigger and clearer databases. The tool is easy to use and, with the necessary adjustments to our context, will be of great help."
WWF-Brazil Conservation Analyst Felipe Spina Avino believes that the use of technologies and tools can help solve some of the challenges related to nature conservation. "We know that resources are lacking for effective management and protection of Brazilian protected areas, but technology can help us know where to concentrate and better apply existing resources," he said.
SMART technology and the SMART approach are the results of a global partnership of various nature conservation organizations. The initiative involves the Zoological Society of Frankfurt, North Carolina Zoo, Panthera, Peace Parks Foundation, WCS, Wildlife Protection Solutions, WWF, and the Zoological Society of London. Learn more about it at https://smartconservationtools.org/
Workshop participants' testimonials:
Francisca Pimentel, manager of "Rio Amapá" Sustainable Development Reserve:
"SMART brings a fresh look at more modern and efficient management of protected areas. It encompasses the managers', technicians', and the community's aspirations to achieve management that is not just about harvesting and ranking data. In fact, it allows analyzing and ranking management priorities, in the same way the information collected helps the implementation of public policies for the territory."
Jaime Gomes, manager of "Caverna do Maroaga" Permanent Preservation Area and "Rio Urubu" Forest:
"As a potential tool for collecting, analyzing and managing data in a systematic and integrated way with other systems, SMART can help guide the actions of management of protected areas in the region, involving several partners."
Gilmar Klein, manager of "Uatumã" Biological Reserve:
"ICMBio has long wanted to improve the management of its areas by incorporating technologies into its daily activities. Although we collect a lot of data, the information is scattered across platforms and often end up not being used. SMART is a way to reconcile and organize this information, making it easier to use. In addition, with the popularity of smartphones, this technology is a chance to work with citizen science and engaging diverse actors in data collection by establishing links with users of PA's and local communities. I know the deployment of something like this takes a long time, but every journey begins with a first step."
Osvaldo Barassi Gajardo, Conservation Analyst, WWF-Brazil:
"Bringing the SMART tool to the state of Amazonas is a complementary and highly relevant action to contribute to the agenda of strengthening the management of the Protected Areas of that state. Along with the definition of more efficient management structures, an increase in the number of park rangers, and the adoption of other instruments, it will be possible to increase the management effectiveness of these protected areas, benefiting nature and traditional communities."