Technology Driven Innovations in Community-based Planning

How can we leverage innovative technologies to foster better climate adaptation efforts in areas directly impacted by climate change?

Responding to the Global Environment Facility's (GEF) call for adaptation strategies that increase effectiveness by engaging the private sector, a MIT team partnered with the environmental regulator in the Colombian Amazon (Corpoamazonia), the Ministry of Environment of Colombia, and the Latin American Development Bank to develop a model where technology development, community-based planning, and nature-based adaptation solutions are combined to accelerate resilience to climate impacts. Their project, UAVs/Drones for Equitable Climate Change Adaptation, has been named a winner of the 2019 GEF Challenge Program for Adaptation Innovation.

“Technology development can be leveraged as a low-carbon development strategy to support local communities in monitoring and adapting to climate change, as a new source of income, wealth and security,” said Juan Camilo Osorio, DUSP PHD Candidate and Co-Investigator for UAVs/Drones for Equitable Climate Change Adaptation. “Our project combines community-based panning with innovation on hardware, software and communications technology, to build the local capacity to monitor and predict landslides.”

UAVs/Drones for Equitable Climate Change Adaptation, focuses on Mocoa, a city in the Amazon piedmont of Colombia, where a landslide in 2017 killed more than 300 individuals and left hundreds missing. The project seeks to enhance local capacity to understand climate risks and risk management. In order to realize this goal, the team leverages innovation in unmanned aerial vehicles while engaging with indigenous communities and women’s activists groups among other grassroots groups for data collection. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are then harnessed for data analysis and modeling to develop a new system to monitor and project landslides, increasing the accuracy and accessibility of risk data, as well as early warning times in the event of emergencies. The project delivers the collected information through and open decision support platform for planning authorities and micro-finance institutions. Data outputs will be used in the design of a multi-million-dollar loan program to foster climate adaptation investments through loans for small agro-forestry producers located in vulnerable areas.

“In Colombia, there are around 300 municipalities facing similar environmental risks as Mocoa,” said Marcela Angel, MCP ’18 and Research Associate for MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI). “The results from this project will be synthesized as a model that can be adjusted in other communities in the Colombian Amazon Piedmont, and other countries in Latin America.”

The MIT team includes Professor John Fernandez, Juan Camilo Osorio, Marcela Angel, and Nourhan Bayomi (Architecture PhD Candidate).

“The organizing principle of our project is that the scientific understanding of climate risk is essential for effective adaptation,” said Fernandez. “It can lead to novel income generation potentials coupled with green business creation.”