Amazonas Sustainable Foundation

  • Organisation Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS)
  • Main Website URL www.fas-amazonas.org
  • Author Gabriel Ribenboim
  • Tools Used Google Street View
"By connecting the world of traditional forest communities with the world of high technology, we create new opportunities, such as wealth creation with little or no environmental impact."

— Virgilio Viana, CEO of the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation

The 'Street View for the Amazon' project started in 2009, when Virgilio Viana, CEO of Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS) and Gabriel Ribenboim, FAS’ International Programme Manager approached Rebecca Moore, Director of Google Earth Outreach, at the COP15 UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, with the idea of capturing “river view” and “forest view”, similar to the way Google had collected Street View. Google was excited about the possibilities, and we began to work together to plan the project.


Tributary of the Rio Negro in the Rio Negro Sustainable Development Reserve - View Larger Map

The mission of the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation is to promote sustainable involvement and environmental conservation, while improving the quality of life of communities living in protected areas of Amazonas. We work to reduce deforestation, conserve biodiversity, and reduce poverty, by generating income based on sustainable activities within protected areas of the Amazon. The project and partnership with Google allows us to use innovative technology to disseminate our success stories, as well as engage people all over the world in forest conservation. By allowing people around the world to see for themselves the forest and rivers, as well as the communities who live there, they are better equipped to help in the effort.


Amazon rainforest in the Rio Negro Sustainable Development Reserve - View Larger Map

How they did it

As the project ramped up over the next year, we developed a proposal of where and what to collect in the Rio Negro Sustainable Development Reserve, a protected area in the State of Amazonas, Brazil. In August 2011, we invited Google Street View and Google Earth Outreach teams to the Rio Negro Reserve to collect ground-level images of 50 kilometres of the Rio Negro, an Amazon Forest trail and some areas of five river communities. We also invited the State Secretary of Environment and Sustainable Development of Amazonas and the State Centre for Protected Areas to support this pioneering partnership, which also authorised the imagery collection. The key success point of this project was driven by communication and consultation at the local level. Before every collection, FAS worked closely with the community and held community meetings to obtain their individual authorisation, get them excited and hear their thoughts. On 21 March 2012, World Forest Day, those images were made available through the Street View feature on Google Maps.


Virgilio Viana, CEO of FAS, explains the Street View Project to members of the Tumbira

To collect river-level images of a section of the Rio Negro (the largest tributary of the Amazon River and the largest blackwater river in the world) and its tributaries, we strapped a Street View trike on to the roof of a boat. We weren’t completely sure how well it would work, as this was the first time we had collected Street View images on a river in such a natural ecosystem, but it worked beautifully.


Adapted Street View trike to collect images from rivers and tributaries

"I was very impressed by how perfectly well this technology worked in hostile environments such as the forests, rivers and shaded buildings. Both Google and FAS teams worked in perfect synergy both amongst themselves and with local communities, which was essential to provide high quality collections with plenty of respect for the locals' environment and way of life."

- Gabriel Ribenboim, FAS Project Leader

To collect ground-level images of five river communities along the Rio Negro, employees of FAS and local community members pedalled the Street View trike around the dirt paths and grass fields. The communities were chosen by FAS; they are among the communities that participate in FAS’ “Bolsa Floresta” Programme, which rewards traditional populations for maintaining the environmental services provided by the forest, within 15 protected areas of the Amazonas State.

In order to mount and unmount the trike from the boat and to move it around the community, a difficult task for equipment weighing more than 200 kg in a challenging environment, we had voluntary support in every community we visited.


Local inhabitant of Rio Negro collecting images with the Street View trike

We also used a tripod camera with a fisheye lens - usually used to capture imagery of business interiors - to capture both interiors of several community buildings where the community gathers, such as the health clinic and the school, as well as a nearby forest trail. More than 2,000 still photos were stitched together to create the 200 immersive, 360-degree panoramic views that you can enjoy on the gallery. The panoramas take you inside the buildings and inside the forest for a rare glimpse at what it’s like to live in the Amazon Rainforest.


Victor Salviati, FAS’ Special Project Coordinator collecting forest images with the tripod (FAS)

Impact

Many areas of the Amazon, including Rio Negro Reserve, are under the protection of the Brazilian government with restricted access to the public, so we hope that this Street View collection provides access to this special corner of the planet that many people, including Brazilians, wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to experience.

In addition, local communities of the Rio Negro Sustainable Development Reserve understand the importance of sharing with the world their way of life, environment and challenges. Since Google Street View reaches a global audience, our perception is that our local communities also achieve a greater sense of confidence and importance in their work to emphasise forest conservation.

As FAS has created a new institutional venue within a strong governance framework to link forest dwellers, governments, the private sector and donors to action-oriented programmes, we also highlight the importance of this tool, in order to sensitise millions of citizens and thousands companies to the challenges of combating climate change, deforestation and poverty in isolated areas of the Amazon Rainforest.

The Street View for the Amazon project is bringing great visibility to FAS, showing our ongoing actions with local communities. With increased visibility, more companies look to us for the creation of new partnerships and this can help FAS to perform its mission, in order to promote environmental conservation and poverty alleviation.

Within two days of publishing the Street View imagery of the Amazon, we had a huge uptick in users accessing our website, with viewership up 600% on the English version and 25% on the Portuguese version. In the first three days, more than 100,000 people saw the "making of" video in YouTube.


To do this directly from maps you can go to Brazil map and drag pegman to the Rio Negro River.

You can take your time and explore all the images. Or, for those who would like a guided tour at a quicker pace, take a Google Earth tour on the river, in the forest or in the Tumbira community.

Note from the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation: The Sustainable Development Reserve of Rio Negro is a conservation unit created by the State Government of Amazonas in 2008 to protect the environment and the life of communities living in this area. Management of the reserve is the responsibility of the State Centre for Protected Areas - CEUC - from the State Secretary of Environment and Sustainable Development of Amazonas (SDS / AM). The entry of non-residents into the reserve is controlled by the Amazonas Government. For more information, please visit CEUC’s website at www.ceuc.sds.am.gov.br and SDS’s website at www.sds.am.gov.br.