Amazonas Sustainable Foundation

Gabriel Ribenboim
Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS)
Tools Used
Google Street View

The 'Street View for the Amazon' project started in 2009, when Virgilio Viana, CEO of Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS) and Gabriel Ribenboim, FAS' International Program Manager approached Rebecca Moore, Director of Google Earth Outreach, at the COP15 UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, with the idea of capturing “river view” and “forest view,” similar to the way Google had collected Street View. Google was excited about the possibilities, and we began to work together to plan the project.

Tributary of the Rio Negro in the Rio Negro Sustainable Development Reserve - View Larger Map

The mission of the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation is to promote the sustainable involvement and environmental conservation, while improving of quality of life of communities living in protected areas of Amazonas. We work to reduce deforestation, conserve biodiversity, and reduce poverty, by generating income based on sustainable activities within protected areas of the Amazon. The project and partnership with Google allows us to use innovative technology to disseminate our success stories, as well as engage people all over the world in forest conservation. By allowing the world to see the forest and rivers, as well as the communities who live there, for themselves, they are better equipped to help in the effort.

Amazon rainforest in the Rio Negro Sustainable Development Reserve - View Larger Map

How they did it

As the project ramped up over the next year, we developed a proposal of where and what to collect in the Rio Negro Sustainable Development Reserve, a protected area in the State of Amazonas, Brazil. In August 2011, we invited Google Street View and Google Earth Outreach teams to the Rio Negro Reserve to collect ground-level images of 50 kilometers of the Rio Negro, an Amazon Forest trail, and some areas of five river communities. We also invited the State Secretary of Environment (SEMA) and the State Center for Protected Areas to support this pioneer partnership, which also authorized the imagery collection. The key success point of this project was driven by communication and consultation in local level. Before every collection, FAS worked closely with the community and held community meetings to get their individual authorization, get them excited and hear their thoughts. On March 21, 2012 on World Forest Day, those images were made available through the Street View feature on Google Maps.

Virgilio Viana, CEO of FAS, explains the Street View Project to members of the Tumbira

To collect river-level images of a section of the Rio Negro, the largest tributary of the Amazon River and the largest blackwater river in the world, and its tributaries, we strapped a Street View trike on the roof of a boat. We weren't completely sure how well it would work, as this was the first time we had collected Street View images on a river in such a natural ecosystem, but it worked beautifully.

Adapted Street View trike to collect images from rivers and tributaries

I was very impressed how this technology worked perfectly well in hostile environments like the forests, rivers and shaded buildings. Both Google and FAS teams worked in perfect synergy among themselves and with local communities and this was essential to provide high quality collections with plenty of respect to local's environment and way of life.

Gabriel Ribenboim, FAS Project Leader

To collect ground-level images of five river communities along the Rio Negro, employees of FAS and local community members pedaled the Street View trike around the dirt paths and grass fields. The communities were chosen by FAS; they are among the communities that participate in FAS' “Bolsa Floresta” Program, which rewards traditional populations for maintaining the environmental services provided by the forest, within 15 protected areas of the Amazonas State.

In order to mount and unmount the trike from the boat and to move it around the community - a difficult task for an equipment of more than 200 kg in a challenging environment, we had voluntary support in every community we have been.

Local habitant of Rio Negro collecting images with the Street View trike

We also used a tripod camera with a fisheye lens—typically used to capture imagery of business interiors—to capture both interiors of several community buildings where the community gathers, such as the health clinic and the school, as well as a nearby forest trail. More than 2,000 still photos were stitched together to create the 200 immersive, 360-degree panoramic views which you can enjoy on the gallery. The panoramas take you inside the buildings and inside the forest for a rare glimpse at what it's like to live in the Amazon Rainforest.

Victor Salviati, FAS' Special Project Coordinator collecting forest images with the tripod (FAS)


Many areas of the Amazon, including Rio Negro Reserve, are under the protection of the Brazilian government with restricted access to the public, so we hope that this Street View collection provides access to this special corner of the planet that many people, including Brazilians, otherwise wouldn't have the chance to experience.

In addition, local communities of the Rio Negro Sustainable Development Reserve understand the importance of sharing with the world their way of life, environment and challenges. Since Google Street View reaches a global audience, our perception is that our local communities also achieve a greater sense of confidence and importance in their work to emphasize forest conservation.

As FAS has created a new institutional venue within a strong governance framework to link forest dwellers, governments, private sector, and donors to action-oriented programmes, we also highlight the importance of this tool, in order to sensitize millions of citizens and thousands companies to the challenges of combating climate change, deforestation and poverty in isolated areas of the Amazon Rainforest.

The Street View for the Amazon project is bringing a great visibility to FAS, showing our ongoing actions with local communities. With increased visibility, more companies look to us for the creation of new partnerships and this can help FAS to perform its mission, in order to promote environmental conservation and poverty alleviation.

Within two days of publishing the Street View imagery of the Amazon, we had a huge uptick in users accessing our website, with viewership up 600% on the English version and 25% on the Portuguese version. In the first three days, more than 100,000 people saw the "making of" video in YouTube.

To do this directly from maps you can go to Brazil map and drag pegman to the Rio Negro River.

You can take your time and explore all the images. Or, for those who would like a guided tour at a quicker pace, take a Google Earth tour on the river, in the forest, or in the Tumbira community.

Note from the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation:The Sustainable Development Reserve of Rio Negro is a conservation unit created by the State Government of Amazonas in 2008 to protect the environment and the life of communities living in this area. The management of the reserve is a responsibility of the State Center for Protected Areas from the State Secretary of Environment (SEMA). The entry of non-resident people in the reserve is controlled by the Amazonas Government.