I am now back from my second fieldtrip to the Ashaninka people from Amônea River. The first fieldtrip was in January, in which I started the free, prior and informed consent process with the community. In that occasion, I presented the Extreme Citizen Science Research Group to them and we talked about possibilities of collaboration. One of the exercises we did was to discuss in groups what they wanted to monitor. The groups then presented to each other what they had discussed. Their main expressed concern was with the threats and invasions in their territory.
The other exercise was focused on types of evidence that they identify to characterise such threats and invasions. We again did group work with subsequent presentation to others. With these material in hands I went back to UCL and, after being trained by the Research Group on how to build a decision-tree on Sapelli software, I built a prototype of a decision tree to bring back to the Ashaninka on my following trip.
I arrived in the village in the middle of April and we organised a three-day training for the monitors. The Ashaninka had decided to train a group of ten monitors at first, but in the end we did the training with thirteen. On the first day of the training we had a group presentation and then some practical exercises with the printed icons I had used in the decision tree.
The group of monitors is composed mainly of men aged between 17 and 42 years-old, and one woman. There are literate and illiterate people. To evaluate whether the icons used in the application were easily understood by each one of them, I divided them into two groups and gave the printed icons on A4 sheets of paper to them so that they could discuss their meanings. Then, they presented their understanding of the images to the others. At that stage I identified the icons that were not very clear to them and that needed to be changed. A couple of Ashaninka volunteered to draw new icons to be used as replacement.
I introduced them to the smartphones and to the application only on the second day. I showed them how to turn the device on and off, as most of them do not have contact with mobile phones. They chose to use the application in the Launcher mode, so that people will not use the phone for other purposes. Also, energy is very scarce in the village, so this is a way of saving battery.
We then followed the path of the decision tree, step-by-step, and I guided them through some hypothetical exercises. I would check phone by phone, on every step, to make sure everyone was on the same page. At this stage, it was again possible to identify the need for adaptation, as some of the icons were considered not necessary, while others should be added. After that, they all went to collect data around the village.
On the third day we assessed the difficulties and challenges they had when using the device and the application. We also discussed the risks in doing this kind of activity. The points that were raised will be brought to the discussions for the establishment of community protocols. Finally, we did another round of training and practical exercises.
The next stage will be to show them the results of the data collected and to produce a new version of the decision tree, with the icons they drew and with the adaptations requested. And there is a lot more to come.