Principal Investigators: Johannes Urpelainen, Tara Slough, Jacob Kopas
Country: Peru

Dates of Intervention: September 2017 - December 2018

Background: Continued and accelerating deforestation of the Amazon rainforest represents a grave threat. While substantial investments have been made in satellite monitoring to detect deforestation events in the region, much of this data remains inaccessible to "first responders,'' namely communities in the Amazon and, to a lesser extent, the officials tasked with prosecuting these crimes. To what extent does providing this information to the communities most threatened by deforestation and facilitating community monitoring allow communities to respond to such threats and combat continued deforestation? Further, does facilitating contact between affected communities and government authorities promote increased legal action against offenders? In collaboration with Rainforest Foundation US, we will conduct a field experiment in indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon in order to generate evidence around these questions.

Research Design: The common treatment arm consists of a community monitoring program that includes community and monitor training and support. For a year, community monitors in treatment communities will observe and measure illegal deforestation activities in communal territories. Our partner, Rainforest Foundation US will visit communities monthly to provide support and share deforestation events detected by satellite imagery. The alternative treatment arm seeks to promote interaction between communities and the Peruvian state responsible for the prosecution of environmental crimes. In a subset of treatment municipalities, monitors and/or community leaders will be provided with the resources to travel to the state capital to convey information about deforestation activity to Peruvian environmental prosecutors. We measure outcomes from multiple sources of data. First, we measure deforestation events monthly using LANDSAT satellite imagery at a 30x30m resolution. We will also measure secondary outcomes using wood price data and records from Peru's environmental courts. Finally, an endline survey will allow us to test mechanisms related to the efficacy of community monitoring.

  • Relative to the control group, community monitoring (both treatment arms) reduces the number and area of deforestation events.
  • Relative to community monitoring only, the combination of community monitoring and information sharing with national authorities reduces the number and area of deforestation events.
  • Relative to the control group, individuals in monitoring communities (both treatment arms) manifest greater awareness of the incidence of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon.
  • Relative to the control group, individuals in monitoring communities (both treatment arms) manifest higher levels of coordination in a set of laboratory games.
  • Relative to the control group, treatment communities hold a higher number of community meetings dealing with resource preservation issues over the course of one year.