His grandfather protected the territory of the Paiter Surui, in the Brazilian state of Rondônia, with a bow and arrow. Today, new technologies are the “weapons” of Txai Surui, and many other young indigenous activists, to fight illegal logging and mining in the Amazon.

This 26-year-old Brazilian is one of the stars of Web Summit Rio, the global event for the digital economy and new technologies, which this week brings together, for the first time outside Europe, more than 20,000 entrepreneurs from large technology companies, start-ups and investors from all over the world.

“For us today new technologies are a weapon (…) with ancestral knowledge we use them as a form of resistance, to protect our territory,” she told AFP on the sidelines of the interview. the conference.

Using video cameras, drones, GPS, mobile phones and social media, a group of young people from their village monitor illegal incursions on their land and report them via a dedicated application, explains the coordinator of the Kanindé ethno-environmental defense association, which brings together 21 indigenous peoples of the Amazon.

“But technology can be used to do harm,” she warns, noting that traffickers also use satellite images.

Some 800,000 indigenous people live in Brazil, most of them in reservations which represent 13.75% of the territory, according to official figures.

Txai Surui is following in the footsteps of her parents who fought against illegal logging and faced death threats from traffickers.

The young woman produced the documentary “O territorio” (The territory) on the struggle of the Uru-eu-wau-wau people, and their mother, Ivaneide Bandeira, to protect ancestral lands in Rondônia (north).

Her father, Chief Almir Surui, whom she defines as “a visionary”, was the first to use technology “to save the forest”. In 2007, he knocked on the door of Google to produce with the Californian company “the cultural map” of the territory of the Paiter Surui people, their way of life, their dwellings, their fauna and flora.

Barefoot, her face painted with black lines and a crown of multicolored feathers adorning her long hair, Txai Surui urges new economy entrepreneurs to go to the Amazon rainforest.

“We need people who work with new technologies to reconnect with nature (…) To those who tell me that they want to help me with new applications, I say to them come and meet us and see what we we need,” says the activist, who is also a law student.

The government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, which took office in January, has made the fight against deforestation a priority. Last week, he signed decrees demarcating six new indigenous territories, the first since 2018.

The new reserves guarantee indigenous populations exclusive use of natural resources and scientists say that these areas will curb deforestation in the Amazon.

Under the government of far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022), deforestation has increased by 75% compared to the previous decade.

“Points of view have changed (…) but we know that there is a long way to go,” said Txai Surui. “My role is to claim, to put pressure, there are still a lot of territories to delimit”.

She said she would like the National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples (Funai), the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples and the Ministry of the Environment to be strengthened in Brazil. She points to Congress “very conservative, more so than under the last administration”, as a major obstacle to change.

The young woman implores global decision-makers not to look at climate change solely through the lens of economics: “we are almost at a point of no return (…) We have to stop thinking only about the economy but thinking about people”.

05/03/2023 22:54:30 –         Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –         © 2023 AFP