Global Policy Forum

Brazil Rainforest Internet Plan

March 30, 2007

A move to provide free internet access to native Indian tribes to help protect the Amazon rainforest from illegal logging has been announced in Brazil.

Environment Minister Marina Silva said land protection was the key aim of the plan, which will provide satellite access to 150 isolated regions. Indigenous communities were the true protectors of their areas, she said. Brazil has struggled to protect the Amazon forest from illegal activities, including mining and ranching.

More contact

Under the plan, the central government will provide the satellite internet access, but state and local governments must first provide the necessary computers. Thirteen areas have been chosen by the Environment Ministry, the National Indian Foundation (Funai) and the environmental protection agency, Ibama. They include the Pantanal wetlands, the largest remaining wetland in the world largely unaffected by human activities.

"It's a way to open communications between indigenous communities, former slave villages, coconut crackers, river fishermen and the rest of society," Ms Silva said, after signing the agreement. Since taking office, she has taken an active role in defending the rainforest and its estimated 20 million inhabitants. Environment ministry official Francisco Costa said the goal was to encourage indigenous peoples to join the authorities in the environmental management of the country. He said the government intended to strengthen a four-year-old digital system for monitoring and protecting the forest called the Forest Peoples' Network.

Mixed views

Indigenous leaders have expressed support for the programme.

"The internet helped us bring in the police [when we had illegal logging in our area]," Benhi Piyanko, a member of an Ashaninka indigenous community in western Acre state, said. "We managed to spread the message widely. We even reached the president." Others fear that the arrival of computers might erode indigenous culture. "I don't like computers but I don't like planes either," Ailton Krenak, a member of the Krenak people, said. "What can you do?"




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