Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

Corpocampo & The Amazon Conservation Team

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What is the name of your solution?

Amazon Gatherers for the Future

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Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Promoting sustainable non-timber forest harvesting with local amazon communities through big data analysis and a GIS-based prototype

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What specific problem are you solving?

The lack of sustainable economic alternatives  in the Amazon, as for other biological hotspots, is a pivotal deforestation driver. Between 2018 and 2020, 527,738 hectares of primary forest were transformed in the Colombian Amazon (IDEAM: 2021). The principal drivers of deforestation were livestock economy, illegal coca crops, and timber extraction. These productive activities offer high rentability and often have no regulation in dense forests. 


Local livelihoods require economic alternatives to sustain physical needs and achieve a sustainable relationship with ecosystems. Even for traditional activities, this requires innovation to become more efficient and competitive, as increased productivity and profitability have the potential to engage local people in conservation.


The Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) value chain has shown to be a promising solution that reconciles conservation efforts and markets influence over communities. Nevertheless, climate change has affected the rain seasons and has altered harvesting cycles. Additionally, since roads are in a precarious state and communities are distanced from the market centers, it is important to optimize the efficiency of each activity, avoiding the need to recure external inputs.


Amazon “superfoods” are one type of NTFP that have been highlighted in the market because they are known to be edible products that provide nutritional functions related to health. For this reason, it has prompted an exponential trend in its global consumption. This trait sets emerging Amazonian superfood markets that can either become a great opportunity for sustainable development or turn into a new threat due to unmeasured exploitation.


In addition, the supply of local NTFPs is community-based, such as in the case of wild açai fruit. Consequently, new initiatives focused on scale-up and upgrading açai value chain become an urgent matter.


Since the açai market is recently arousing in the Colombian Amazon, there are still gaps in knowledge about the behavior of the forest harvest in terms of productivity and its regeneration. Additionally,  acaí palms (Euterpe precatoria) production is volatile and varies drastically according to context conditions, hence, monitoring the production chain is challenging. The lack of data has generated uncertainty about the market, which discourages the local communities from adopting the açai harvest as an economical and sustainable alternative.


One of the main challenges to achieving accurate data is involving the communities in collecting the information. As most are indigenous people, their knowledge of the NTFP in the forest is highly valuable; nevertheless, their skills in using technological devices are limited. For this reason, working hand in hand with organizations whose processes in territories are long-lasting is a central complement with mutual benefits.

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What is your solution?

Corpocampo and the Amazon Conservation Team are now working together to confront deforestation in Putumayo, Colombian Amazon, by resorting to efficiency and adaptation within NTFP value chains.


Corpocampo has been working on developing sustainable value chains for the use of açai fruit and other Amazon “superfoods”. Along with the Amazon Conservation Team, we are developing tools and strategies that can help monitor this activity effectively and potentialize its productivity, making it more efficient. Using Geographic Information Systems that it is being fed by data collected throughout drones overflights and high-resolution satellite images, has served as a powerful resource to identify wild açai palms, estimate productive potentials, establish effective harvesting routes, coordinate activities for collection and transportation of the harvest and oversee information regarding deforestation. 


Precision mapping of wild açai palm's geographic and geologic features enables the creation of effective and efficient production and commercialization. Developing an integral system that combines technology and local experience can help communities become more efficient and sustainable within the harvest of local NTFP.

 

We propose a monitoring system that includes i) a prototype that mechanizes the acai harvest while recording relevant data. This device will be used by people from the local communities of all ages and physical aptitudes since it simplifies the procedure of lowering the fruit of the cup of the palm (no climbing will be needed). Moreover, the system integrates ii) a GIS-based procedure for automatic analysis on landscape patterns that accelerate or inhibit the growth and harvest of acai berries.

 

The harvesting prototype will help us register the data we need to analyze, such as: the geospatial characteristics of the palms (to establish precise forest inventories), the height of each palm,  trunk diameter of each individual palm, the number of palms that are being harvested, the potential of production of these areas, which seasons are more productive,  among other relevant data.


The GIS-based procedure will use remote sensing data for detecting and monitoring the asai ecosystems.  Consequently, propose better landscape management strategies and to provide detailed information for smart harvesting. Our teams will contrast both data generated by the prototype and the GIS analysis to promote sustainable forest practices in local amazon communities.


The proposed geospatial analysis aims to:

 

1. Register the location of acai palms from orthophotos accurately and using artificial intelligence methods.

2. Identify possible landscape-scale relationships between acai production and ecosystem health.

3. Track possible landscape-scale relationships between acai production and the presence of intermittent wetlands in palm stands.

4. Analyze the state of the spatial structure at the landscape scale in the areas of interest to harvest the acai berries to propose planning and management actions to achieve an effective acai production.


To meet the four objectives mentioned above, software on which our technical teams have expertise will be used, such as ArcGIS ArcGIS Pro, Google Earth Engine, Pix4D, UGCS for DJI, Guidos Toolbox, PCI Geomatics. The data to be analyzed will come from different sources, such as European Space Agency, WorldView, drone Orthophotos, and fieldwork.


Finally, the information collected will be uploaded to a centralized database and complemented with available data sets of other public institutions, for our team to analyze and uncover trends, patterns, and correlations.

 

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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

The Colombian Amazon region has a population of approximately 1 million people (DANE, 2018). After more than 50 years of war, the peace agreement signed in Colombia in 2016 represents new opportunities for the national agricultural sector. However, our country still faces important social and environmental challenges, especially in the regions most affected by the armed conflict, as is the case of Putumayo.

 

The project aims to impact more than 445 people currently participating in the açai production chain in the department of Putumayo (Colombian Amazon Region), which Corpocampo is supporting through the establishment of commercial agreements and sustainable forest management plans of which, 418 correspond to indigenous and 27 to peasants, representing the establishment of more than 2,000 hectares of protected forests. 

 

In addition, we have identified that one of the most significant difficulties in promoting and sustaining wild açai production is the high energy-demanding harvesting. For this reason, some people, including older people and women, have difficulties climbing the wild açai palms, as they can overcome 10 meters in height. Developing an automatic harvesting prototype will help collect data and help overcome the physical limitations to perform these activities.



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How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Corpocampo is an NGO created in 2003 as a community-based initiative funded by Edgar Montenegro, of peasant origin from the Putumayo region. As a non-profit organization, it works along with the communities to produce and commercialize amazon superfoods, especially açai berry. The local background and having more than 19 years of accumulated knowledge from the experience of operating this value chain, enable us to have a deep understanding of the context and its needs. Therefore,  to identify possible levers to overcome the main local challenges and exploit the potentiality of this value chain.

 

The Amazon Conservation Team -ACT- is a foreign non-profit entity headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. We work for the protection of tropical forests and the strengthening of local communities, predominantly with Amazon communities and have supported the conservation of over 1.9 million acres of primary forest.

 

We have a direct presence in 4 countries of the Amazon basin: Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Suriname, and an indirect presence in Bolivia, Peru, Guiana, and French Guiana. We build long-term and beneficial relationships with local communities, ancestral and traditional guardians of the territory. We work directly in Colombia, Peru, and Brazil in the Northwest Program.

 

We have implemented productive and conservation projects hand in hand with indigenous and peasant communities that bet on the improvement of life quality and the ecosystems' protection by strengthening the traditional practices and implementing technological and institutional tools. 

 

ACT has worked with more than 700 indigenous and peasant families. Within our Sustainable Livelihoods strategy, we have assisted the implementation of more than 15 value chains in the Caqueta and Putumayo departments, providing a qualified technical team in the field and permanent in situ assistance. Moreover, our GIS team has been implementing digital tools for geographic data collecting, such as Survey123, facilitating geospatial data processing to use and explore multiple methodologies that enable the study of the structural dynamics of the landscapes in which we have a presence.

 

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Support local economies that protect high-carbon ecosystems from development, including peatlands, mangroves, and forests.

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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Puerto Asís, Putumayo, Colombia
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Our solution's stage of development:

Prototype
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How many people does your solution currently serve?

445 peoples

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Why are you applying to Solve?

Front-edge processes require extraordinary support. Corpocampo and Amazon Conservation Team are working with local communities to increase the economic incomes of local families by implementing alternative cost-efficient production chains. Several globally-known products, such as acai, are not consumed or commercialized by most of the Colombian habitants, since the local market is not strong enough. In this sense, it is necessary to strengthen it to scale up the açai market; promoting efficient solutions is the best way to achieve this. 

 

We believe this solution is on track with the human-centered projects supported by Solve, since our extensive work with peasant amazon communities has led us to conclude this prototype, initially designed by Corpocampo with Putumayo locals, will potentiate their practices and include a wider local population in this value chain, and the subsequent increase in their incomes. Moreover, the centralized system that will contrast GIS data with ground data is innovative, as it gathers information and extrapolates potential areas that are more effective for the production of amazonian NTFPs. The Amazon Conservation Team has also been seeking tech-based monitoring systems for the tropical forests' conservation and has a specialized team that will assist in recording valuable data with user-friendly apps. 


More importantly, the nine months of personalized support from the MIT- backed network will allow us to evaluate our impact and strengthen our business model, complementing our territorial knowledge with the expertise of people in the innovation and technological industry. The contacts and MIT's network will open new possibilities for the future implementation of these types of systems in other tropical geographies, accelerating the sustainable NTFPs chains that inhibit deforestation patterns.


We envigored the possibility to work along with MIT on this idea, being a worldwide referent in technological knowledge and development.  

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Joaquin Gastelbondo (General Manager)

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More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

Participative approaches in monitoring systems are not new, nor are Geographical Information Systems to manage knowledge to make the operation of value chains more efficient, but our proposal stands as innovative and unique as it is focused on an activity that relies on natural processes and needs to avoid as much as possible the anthropic interference. This is not “precision agriculture”, as no inputs or artificial conditions are intended and different from ordinary monitoring systems, the tool for data collection will become a useful element for the main activity (wild açai harvesting) and stakeholders (communities that harvest wild açai). 

 

Our approach using Geographic Information System will provide better monitoring and managing knowledge around the local social and landscape dynamics, regarding production cost and potential, and environmental factors. Combining the prototype and the GIS analysis will help local communities to optimize their activities, logistic costs within the value chain, oversee climate fluctuation, access a more just market, increase their productivity and conserve the forest. In addition, it will help monitor ecosystem resilient capacity, to guarantee this activity develops in a sustainable way. 

 

Finally, the final objective is to establish a replicable and adaptable model of monitoring systems for any NTFP. The final result will deliver proof of how technology can work aside from traditionality and conservation, mainly through an integrated system that incorporates an effective, practical, and user-friendly approach, front-edge geographic information management and big data analytics. 

 

 

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What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

The impact goals in a short term wil be:

  1. Increase efficiency of current acaí harvesters.

  2. Increase incomes of acaí harvesters 

  3. Increase the number of populations that benefit from wild acaí harvesting.

  4. Make better use of these natural resources.

The impact goals in long term will be:


1. Increase forest area protection.

2. Contribute to the wellbeing of the beneficiaries (peasant and indigenous communities).

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How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

Sustainable forestry use aims to leverage local livelihood conditions through financial improvement and without the need to expand the agricultural frontier. In this sense, we will be measuring the impact of conservation in four indicators (SDG 13 and 15):

  1. # Hectares protected through forest management plans (wide-scope).

  2. # Hectares harvesting areas with mitigated impacts (specific scope).

  3. # Of people committed to conservation (as conservation agreements are being established with the communities and environmental workshops are being delivered).

  4. Reduction rate of deforestation in the areas of projects scope.

For specific socioeconomic metrics, regarding SDG 1, 2, 5, 8, and 10, we will permanently be registering and evaluating the following data:

  1. Volume of production by household.

  2. Volume of amazon superfood paid by household. 

  3. Annual productivity rate. 

  4. Number of women that are participating in wild açai harvesting.

  5. Income of each household (“Gross primary income”).

  6. Net cash transfers to households.

  7. Real household final consumption expenditure.

Last but not least, we will continuously report on new knowledge produced in the understanding of NTFP ecosystems and their relation to anthropic activity. For this line of knowledge an impact, we will deliver the following indicators:

  1. # of patterns of ecosystem behaviour related to the acai harvesting activity.

  2. # topographical features correlated with acai production.

  3. # of patterns that establish weather conditions correlated with açai production.

  4. Spectral indices.

  5. # of optimal conditions of the surrounding landscape correlate with greater productivity of the stands.

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What is your theory of change?

Vision: The NTFP value chains help to protect the forests by providing a source of income to the local communities, increasing the value of the standing forest, and discouraging logging and the further expansion of the agriculture frontier.

 

The project will work through 3 domains of change:

 

  1. Strengthen a sustainable and profitable economic activity for the Amazonian communities of Colombia: The monitoring and evaluation made by the GIS will allow managing knowledge so that efficiency increases progressively through the accumulation of experience. Mapping and evaluating weather variables (temperature, precipitation, pressure, wind, humidity, and cloudiness) and social conditions (organization strategies, transportation alternatives, population groups) will help to identify influencing factors and commercialization opportunities. By accurately managing different activities and resources, the project will optimize costs in response to context variation, impacting different stakeholders through better net benefit along the value chain. Likewise, this will guarantee the sustainability of this practice, since profitability is the main motive of economic practice in the current world, and with these technologies implemented, an environmentally friendly model will be maintained.

  2. Social inclusion and wellbeing: The project will help more communities to participate in the will açai harvesting. As collecting the açai bunch will be automated, people who have no expertise in palm climbing and elderly people or populations with any physical disabilities will be able to participate in açai harvesting. 

  3. Protecting the forest: The project will enable more communities that live in conservated areas to generate income through sustainable practice, adding value to conservation and strengthening their commitment to the protection of forests.

 

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Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

The harvesting prototype will help us register the data we need to analyze, such as the geospatial characteristics of the palms (to establish precise forest inventories), the height of each palm and the trunk diameter, the number of palms that are being harvested, the potential of production of these areas, which seasons are more productive,  among other relevant data. This will help empower communities to protect the forest.

Also, as lowering the açai bunch will be automatized, people who have no specific experience and expertise in palm climbing and elder people or populations with any physical disabilities will be able to participate of açai harvesting. 

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Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new technology

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How do you know that this technology works?

The harvesting prototype will help us register the data we need to analyze, such as the geospatial characteristics of the palms (to establish precise forest inventories), the height of each palm and the trunk diameter, the number of palms that are being harvested, the potential of production of these areas, which seasons are more productive,  among other relevant data.

 

The GIS-based procedure will use remote sensing data for detecting and monitoring the asai ecosystems.  Consequently, propose better landscape management strategies and to provide detailed information for smart harvesting.     Our teams will contrast both data generated by the prototype and the GIS analysis to promote sustainable forest practices in local amazon communities.


The proposed geospatial analysis aims to:

1. Register the location of acai palms from orthophotos accurately and using artificial intelligence methods.

2. Identify possible landscape-scale relationships between acai production and ecosystem health.

3. Track possible landscape-scale relationships between acai production and the presence of intermittent wetlands in palm stands.

4. Analyze the state of the spatial structure at the landscape scale in the areas of interest to harvest the acai berries to propose planning and management actions to achieve an effective acai production.

To meet the four objectives mentioned above, software on which our technical teams have expertise will be used, such as ArcGIS ArcGIS Pro, Google Earth Engine, Pix4D, UGCS for DJI, Guidos Toolbox, PCI Geomatics. The data to be analyzed will come from different sources, such as European Space Agency, WorldView, drone Orthophotos and fieldwork.

Finally, the information collected will be uploaded to a centralized database and complemented with available data sets of other institutions, for our team to analyse and uncover trends, patterns, and correlations.

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • GIS and Geospatial Technology
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13. Climate Action
  • 15. Life on Land
  • 16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  • 17. Partnerships for the Goals
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Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit

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How many people work on your solution team?

7 people

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How long have you been working on your solution?

2 years

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What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

Our solution intends on working with historically marginalized communities that live in the Amazon Region. This territory has been severely affected by the Colombian armed conflict, therefore it is important to promote opportunities for better living conditions that include all habitants.


The proposed solution, while strengthening the protection of the tropical forests, provides the local communities with an economic alternative, ensuring that all members of the community are able to participate in the harvesting activities. Having a device that mechanizes the acai harvesting process, guarantees that women, people with disabilities, older people, among others, can participate in the acai value chain, which shows how inclusion and equity are included in the proposal. This is fundamental for the empowerment of the community in the conservation of their natural resources.


Finally, Colombia is one of the more diverse (natural and cultural) countries, therefore working with local communities, such as various indigenous groups, as well as peasants, is fundamental for the protection of our cultural heritage and our diversity.

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Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

Corpocampo is a non-profit organization that works with communities to support and develop NTFP value chains in the Colombian Amazon. We help production by training communities and guarantee commercialization of all their harvest. Corpocampo has a transformation plant to produce açai pulp and lyophilized acai powder.  80% of the sales made by the operation are invested in the communities and the remaining 20% is used in project operation and administrative costs.

 

Acai pulp and lyophilized açai powder have high demand, especially in the international market. We currently have more than 100 clients that buy our products, including individual customers, restaurants and big retail chains (for example Carrefour and Group Casino). 

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Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

Financial sustainability is embedded within our Solve proposal since the project aims to increase revenues through a more efficient production in the acai value chain. The current value chain of amazon wild NTFPs’ viability has enabled Corpocampo to operate for more than three years with funds delivered uniquely from grants based on these superfoods' financial success. This innovation allows harvesters to become more efficient with the knowledge produced by the GIS analysis and the net profit can be increased by reducing production costs, as well as collateral environmental costs.  By doing so, productivity will tend to grow progressively and ensure sustainable livelihoods in the region.

 

The idea is that the development of the GIS and the harvesting prototype will optimize the operation in the harvesting activities, in which we are aiming to increase volume and reduce at least 15% of the current production costs. In this sense, the sustainability of the GIS and the production of the harvesting prototype will become part of Corpocampo operation costs.

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Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

Corpocampo and Amazon Conservation Team have experience with the implementation of value chains in the amazon basin. The Amazon Conservation Team has received funding from Moore Family Foundation, Andes Amazon Funds,  Re:Wild, and several silent donors to implement acai, plantain, black chili, cacay, and honey, among other projects, with more than 700 local peasant families. Corpocampo is currently executing a project called the Acai Dream. Its main objective is to increase the acai supply, which is known to contribute to soil regeneration and the protection of the primary forests. This is done by promoting acai production in two lines:

  1. Helping the  establishment of agroforestry systems over previously deforested areas with small landholders.

  1. Promoting wild acai harvesting with communities that do not have land for agriculture, but whose livelihood depends on forest provision.

 

Corpocampo has also participated in elaborating Forest Management Plans (FMP) for the sustainable use of wild acai palms. The project is partially financed by the commercialization of the products and also by international cooperation, in which we have four different grants. However, the backbone of the sustainability of the Acai Dream Project is the growing demand from Corpcoampo's clients for more acai pulp and lyophilizes.


Moreover, Amazon Conservation Team has participated in the establishment of management plans and conservation agreements in peasant territories and indigenous reserves, strengthening the zonification, conservation and land use of more than 2.2 million hectares in four departments in Colombia.


Another financial strategy planned by Corpocampos is combining the income generated through the commercialization of these products with support for carbon credits since extensive hectares of primary forests are protected through this Forest Management Plan. Today we have more than 2,000 hectares under FMP in the department of Putumayo (Amazon Region of Colombia) and 6,000 hectares in the municipality of Tumaco in the Pacific Region. The first area was registered through drone overflights, in order to do geospatial analysis through a methodology that was developed with the financial support of the Partnership For Forest (P4F).


Within the latter, Corpocampo met the Amazon Conservation Team. The two have partnered to develop a more accurate Geographic Information System to create income-generating projects for indigenous communities along the Putumayo River.  

      

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Solution Team

 
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