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@luandro %klnREUIw9FHajWCwzzVDwZJPjfhU9hQo2faE659b3/0=.sha256

Connecting peoples of the Earth: Tukano

continued from %hMC/Ix/...

Beginning of 2020 a couple contacted me. They had heard of me, from someone here from SSB (if I'm not mistaken) whose on their network. They were Philippe Greier and Naiara Tukano. An unusual couple, a gringo and an indigenous lawyer, daughter of one of the most representative indigenous leaders from the Amazon.

They were looking for ways to connect the Balaio Indigenous Territory, one of the many territories the Tukano people call home, and also home to other peoples such as the Baniwa, Baré, Koripako and Tariana. The territory has no way to communicate with the outside world, and road access is a real nightmare from what they tell me.

They were the original inspiration for the Connecting peoples of the Earth project, as the initial image I shared was actually a plan for their region. So for the past year we've been writing grant proposals together, without any luck, until late 2020 they confirmed funding together with the Nova Era Institute.

Naiara and Philippe had already started what they call "Project Tukano" years before, visiting communities and gathering information on what the peoples most fundamental needs were. What came up was the need for communication/information and #foodsovereignty.

This will be a 3 year project, that will start with me visiting and training locals to setup and maintain a basic a #community-server and #lora emergency communication between the villages. This infrastructure will assist with the further phases which will be geared towards working together with the communities to achieve food sovereignty through #agroforestry aligned with their traditional methods.

Initially we were aiming to connect the villages to the closest town, where there's Internet access. But we hit many legal barriers when planning where nodes should be placed, as the largest hill in the territory is also a natural reserve, and a sacred place for the peoples.

Emergency communication plan

I've started a thread on Meshtastic discourse to get some tips from the community.

There are the villages we'll working with:

balaio_link1.jpg

balaio_link2.jpg

The links are short ~5Km, but the vegetation and topography don't help. So I'll be working with the 433Mhz band, which should do better in this situation because of it's larger wave length.

My initial idea is to use TTGO LoRa32 with DIY DK7ZB yagi atennas. And also TTGO T-Beams for mobile nodes.

Meshtastic is evolving pretty fast, and version 1.2 should come out in time for this implementation. I expect much better tools for testing and less bugs then the first experiment. @isabela and I are also working on video documentation in Portuguese, which should really help on bringing technological autonomy.

Intranet plan

community_setup.jpg

The only access to energy they have in Balaio is thru gas generators. So we'll be taking a solar kit with 150W panel, 70Ah battery and a cheap controller. This should be enough to power the server, LoRa radio and have some extra juice for some night lamps and phone charging.

I'll continue using a similar setup from the last experiment. But now with a Pi4 with 8Gb Ram and a 480Gb external HD. Now that I have a better idea of what content they might find interesting I have quite a archive of courses and indigenous videos.

Since I began working with #digital-democracy I've also learned lots, not just about #mapeo, but also about other tools. I've been slowly updating and incrementing the community portal. I really enjoy seeing native-lands there, I feel it'll be very empowering for them to see an indigenous world map.

All other tools have also been evolving heaps. Translations in #ahau are on the way. ssb-hyper-blobs is already being tested. And I started some work on a web viewer, which will make on-boarding much easier for the community.

SSB as a social network has also been evolving a lot thanks to all the work being done for #ngipointer. I'm specially excited about #ssb-browser which will also make on-boarding a lot easier.

Thanks to some financial support from #apc (which also payed for the expenses of the first experiment 🙏 ), me and @isabela are working on video tutorials in Portuguese for the most of the tools I reviewed. Hope we can finish them on time.


I'm very excited for this next work together with the peoples of Balaio. And of course, very excited to work on the Amazon, which will be a first time. New challenges ahead. And really excited to learn and experience the amazing cultures and ways of life that dwell in such a lively region of the world.

@Anders %qe6aQxOZrP4/3ZVLjS8KznJYYCuu+L0uH7qlGc5ehOg=.sha256

Fantastic update @Luandro Pàtwy. The project sounds very interesting and like really fulfilling purposeful work.

@luandro %e7YJJRrf9aPP7sBppwSVJ9eA0eHEcqXvtklereG4fKA=.sha256

Bureaucracy is really eating up our time, but it's moving and we'll soon start buying the equipment.

For the Intranet I'm thinking on getting:

For the Meshtastic LoRa setup:

The Wisblock will be connected to the Raspberry through USB for power and data, so ideally we'd communicate to an app with the board through serial. Options are to create an API that exposes the python API over http for apps to consume or Meshtastic-python/pull/74, to expose Python over http.

The Intranet + LoRa and a TP-Link WDR 3500/3600/4300 running LibreRouter OS will go inside a 20x16x8cm waterproof case connected through a short ethernet cable to each other.

The case with everything will be put on top of a building (house or school) in a pole and kept as high as possible, so that the LoRa radio and the WiFi radio get's better reach. In case of WiFi both for people acessing the intranet access point as well as future WiFi mesh extensions that might happen.

Both router and Pi will be powered by a 150W panel + 70ah battery + 10a PWM controller solar setup that will go to each of the 3 villages that will receive the intranet.

Is having a 12v fan enough to keep everything cooled while inside a box in the amazon heat?

The solar setup seems a bit to small for all this gear, is a way to sleep and wake the Raspberry?


The Pi will run Docker and through it various services:

I haven't had a Pi 4 to test yet, so I'm not yet sure how it'll handle. And besides we have no idea how much use different services will have. Only way is leaving at the villages for some time and try to collect data.

Which is another important topic. Offline data collection. Ideally We'd write a script that publishes OpenWRT collectd data, Pi memory data (CPU, RAM, storage) and Meshtastic statistics to SSB, so that anyone going to town and syncing through the Internet will be seamlessly sending this data through.

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@Nathan Uchtmann %A02AcprSIwSXxa4LQx+lXSlGly1rEuW3arI8sRPmKJc=.sha256
Voted # Connecting peoples of the Earth: Tukano continued from %hMC/Ix/mnDvk0KYG
@Nathan Uchtmann %rEDAEdhRzZPw6j33reolz5xrf4yPhXHU+0hxBPSPExs=.sha256

Thanks for sharing about this project. I’m quite interested in work of this nature. Would be happy to explore possible collaboration opportunities. I’m working to build a network of likeminded friends and community members, especially in the planetary health space.

@luandro %3xwZRXDKv6YpW7UoCb4PE3lyTDkLuZjOZp+8D3Dmxik=.sha256

rio_negro.jpg

The adventure starts! After a flight to Manaus and a tiring 30 hour boat ride up the Rio Negro, finally at São Gabriel da Cachoeira. Heading to the Balaio indigenous territory in a couple of hours.

Also took the opportunity to take my first shot, people here are pretending that the pandemic doesn't exist and vaccines are going bad cause no one wants them. Maybe the fact that the brilliant president says they'll die if they take it has something to do with it...

@luandro %8R1MDkxU4T2pfBuFqbXC0wXs3PeW0zQZ+fHW3HgSMj8=.sha256

familia_balaio.jpg

This journey to the Balaio Indigenous Territory has come to an end. Mission was a success. Learned loads. Got to meet and work with amazing communities, leaders and families. They made me promise to come back and stay and work with them for a while.

Back to São Gabriel da Cachoeira, lots of writing-up to do. Luckily there's the boat trip back to Manaus which will give me loads of time, and then flight to Belém, where another adventure might be waiting... 🚢 ✈️

@luandro %Sv9LVvUNVMaYb7PolfV6nnIxNzXh3vhNrziylzyQwtE=.sha256

🍌 🥥 Land of Abundance 🐟 🐗

maloca_balaio.jpg
Maloca, tranditional gathering house for assemblies, feasts and rituals

The Balaio Indigenous Territory is of very recent occupation and demarcation. Around the 70's families of different ethnic groups started migrating to this territory from close to the borders of Colombia and Venezuela seeking abundance. And they found it: fruits, fertile ground, timber, game and fish. The indigenous territory was officially recognised in 2013, but the title is shared with a national park, which is reason for lots of fighting.

Different from many indigenous peoples in Abya Ayala, who use two clans (summer and winter, for example) as a strategy to maintain genetic diversity, Balaio is a patchwork of ethnic groups who inter-marry. One never marries another from the same ethnic group. But they use Tukano as the common tongue, although some of the youth are losing the ability to speak it, despite understanding it, favouring the coloniser tongue. They mix Tukano and Portuguese during gatherings.

The largest community, also called Balaio, has around 37 families and they are extremely organised. They've held assemblies early in the morning, which they call Kiampira (also the name of a traditional spicy fish soup) in the Maloca several times a week while I was there. There they share food and leaders, of all ages, take turns making relevant announcements and requests to all present. The topic of revitalising their language and cultural practices is very present and they've been putting lots of effort into it.

They are of the tradition of Ayuhuasca, although unfortunately I didn't have the luck to be part in any ritual.

balaio_frutas.jpg
Bananas, cassava, cupuaçu, pineapple and cubius, gifted to me as a presents for Father's Day

Being a lover of spicy food since I lived in South Korea, I absolutely loved their food. They have an abundance of fresh fish and cassava every day. They make cassava flour and also huge beijus, which are the main source of carbs. Chillies are consumed with almost every meal. And every once in a while a chicken or pig is killed, or someone is lucky while hunting in the forest: anta, paca, queixada pigs, deer, monkeys or many kinds of birds.

balaio_acai.jpg
Freshly collected açaí being prepared: hot water is poured over it, the fruits pounded until turned to "wine" (not fermented)

They also have an abundance of fruit that they grow, such as pineapple (the one in the picture has been by far the most delicious pineapple I've ever tasted), citruses, cocoa, coconut, mango, bananas... They also collect many from the forest: açaí, bacaba, buriti, cupuaçu, tucumã, cubiu... When one fruit's season is coming to an end, another's season is starting. Despite the fact that most don't have any form of income, malnutrition simply doesn't exist here, the very opposite, these people are strong and really healthy.

balaio_rio.jpg
In the amazon region, only huge rivers are actually called rivers, minor bodies of water such as this are called igarapês

They bathe, wash their clothes and dishes in the close by igarapê several times a day and collect rain water from the roofs into big tanks for drinking and cooking. Different from the Krahô, they are very conservative about nudity, and everyone bathes with their clothes on.

Similar to the Krahô, 100% of people in the territory got Covid but none died from it. Everyone was cured through the use of their own traditional medicines. They're so confident about curing the virus that I heard a matriarch tell a university women to bring patients to the village instead of taking them to hospitals.

This has been by far the most abundance I've ever experienced in my life, and I'll miss it dearly. But of course, not all is perfect in the Balaio territory.

@luandro %9qIaMgnr6VySVdCuVIJB5K0J9Ftjjk7IlttNSCn6DBY=.sha256

🇧🇷 ✝️ Land of Contradictions 🚚 🍾

In São Gabriel da Cachoeira (SGC) military buildings are everywhere. Naiara had previously told me that the army plays the role of the state here, but I didn't take it word-for-word. It became obvious as we drove from SGC to Balaio how literal that statement was. There are no police or government workers to be seen, almost everyone working on anything public is a soldier. And being the city with the most percentage of indigenous peoples in Brasil, most soldiers are indigenous (officials are always white though). SGC is also the only city in brasil where indigenous languages have been considered official languages.

The trip from SGC to the Balaio village, the furthest and largest village in the territory, was much faster then I'd expected. The ride in a 4x4 took only an hour and a half, but cost an absurd amount of money (for our standards), as much as the 30 hour boat trip from Manaus to SGC, around 100 USD. When the road was in worse shape, it cost three times as much.

The connection the communities have had with the army go back generations, and the current vice-president of brasil, General Mourão, was previously head of the military in the region. Because of this, Balaio has been the only Indigenous Territory president Bolsonaro has visited since he's taken office (maybe ever). He came for the inauguration of a bridge built by the military, which made the life of the peoples in the territory a hell of a lot easier. A bizarre account of this visit has been shared on the bastard's Facebook page. And because of this visit the roads have been fixed and the main village has gotten a government satellite Internet connection, the two things they've demanded the most over the years.

Because of this feat, they've gained the unwanted fame of being pro-Bolsonaro, which is very badly seen by any social movement, specially indigenous ones. But we can't really blame them for taking the opportunity, can we? It's as they say themselves:

It's not that we're pro-government. They use us, why can't we take the opportunity to use them?

When I arrived at the family's house where I was going to stay, the first thing I was asked by the matriarch was if I was an environmentalists. Environmental institutions are their biggest enemies, as ICMBio, for example, uses the authority they have over the park to limit the peoples use of their own natural resources. And the army is their biggest ally, as they provide all services the state should be providing. The default haircut of every male in the villages is military style, and most have served the armed forces at some point in their lives.

The elders tell stories of how Christianity was literately beaten into them many generations ago, yet they all consider themselves Catholics. I haven't seen them practice it in the Balaio village besides mass on Sunday, which started with a screening of some random american action movie 🤔 But there was another village where everyone was as Christian as you can get, singing songs and making prayers on every opportunity. Yet in a third village many were sunk into alcoholism, which makes favouring Christianity over your traditions worthwhile, if it means escaping the destruction that comes with addiction 🤕

The biggest shock for me was the presence of the army in the village. They were fixing up two old school buildings and an old community-centre to be used as their sleeping barracks and kitchen. A road which leads to the Colombian border passes through the territory, so it's a very strategic spot for the military. They'll be staying for at least a semester in the village while building bridges and fixing roads.

There are electricity poles coming all the way from town and are all over the village, but as they haven't been properly maintained, and vegetation in the amazon grows ferociously fast, all that infrastructure has crumbled and disabled for ages. The military runs diesel generators 24/7 to power their machines, fridges and sound systems. It's a terrible noise, but you get used to it after a while... At least they share the electricity with some of the villagers, but not all.

I respect and agree with most of their demands, but not all, as some leaders are in favour of mining, poaching and logging. But after being a part of many of their assemblies I better understood the power-relations they've had with the military and missionaries for generations, and how those became their moral reference.

Despite all these contradictions I've came to deeply admire these communities, their social organisation and resistance.

@luandro %zIs4v22SaUlU/51SsXWOJhiMcfzx9WfFPF1k/Ddlhqo=.sha256

👩‍👩‍👧‍👦 ☀️ Community Server Implementation 💻 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

balaio_equip_3rasps.jpg
Three Raspberry Pis 4 with double fan casing and external SSD drives

Most of the software and hardware preparations happened two weeks prior to the trip. But even while travelling I spent sleepless nights in hotel rooms downloading and preparing the devices.

My initial idea was to boot the Pis from the SSDs connected to USB 3. But after a lot of trial and error I found out that having an SSD connected to USB 3 and a Wifi access-point at the same time is impossible for the Pi, because of RF interference, which is detailed in this paper.

ap_server_movel.jpg
Mobile community-server hotspot: a Raspberry 4, connected to UPS with two 18650 batteries and an external SSD

In the territory, the process for implementing the #community-server began by having assemblies which were held specifically for the purpose of our project. During these gatherings I'd turn on the mobile hotspot-server to demo to everyone present what a community Intranet is, in order to settle expectations and misunderstandings, and also get some early feedback.

Some of the feedback was really useful, and so I had to do a lot of improvising at the Balaio village despite it's very precarious Internet connection, to tweak some services and add some new ones.

balaio_instalacao_solar_parintins.jpg
Solar panel being installed on roof of a school at Parintins village

First thing we needed was the energy to power our Intranet, so on each of the 3 villages we started by installing the solar kits we brought: 150W panel, with 150Ah battery and cheapest 10A controller.

Using such a low-end controller was probably not the best idea, as one malfunctioned within a week. Not sure how the rest is holding out.

balaio_bateria_controlador.jpg
150Ah battery and cheap 10A controller

To power the community-server we used 12V to 5V 5A converters between the 12V battery and the Pi's USB C cable.

balaio_jovens_codigo.jpg
Young Balaio men gathered around a laptop playing with the community-portal's code

I had ISO images of the servidor-comunitario stack on my computer. So burning the SD card and putting it on the Pi produced a configured hotspot and dnsmasq, with stack of applications: Jellyfin, Calibre, Meshtastic Web, Solar Calculator, Filebrowser, Etherpad.

We had the first prototype of the community-portal which is edited through a code-server and has offline maps with pre-downloaded tiles, native-land, their territory's geojson shapes and markers for each village.

balaio_cartaz_intranet.jpg
Poster with instruction on how to connect and interact with the community-server and portal

Together with representatives from each village we created posters with instructions on how to connect to the community intranet and make use of it's applications and services.

balaio_roteador_servidor.jpg
Final setup: Pi4 in a waterproof enclosure and Tplink Archer C50 with #libremesh

Using the Pi as a community hotspot is far from ideal, as it's wifi isn't really made for that. So two of the three villages also got a router running LibreRouterOS, which made it possible for the signal to go much further, and enables the network to be expanded through mesh in the future.

Another advantage is that since we're not using the Pi as a hotspot, USB 3 works fine again, giving the intranet a huge boost in performance.

Something we learned was that the Pi4 can't remain completely sealed in a waterproof enclosure in the Amazon. Too hot, despite it's dual fan heat-sink armor.

Conclusion

Last year we experimented with the community-server and community-portal with indigenous communities for the first time at the Krahô territory. This was the second experiment, and I believe we were able to take it to a whole new level.

But we were still not able to have the community fully appropriate this technology, but we're getting closer and we really learned A LOT.

This experiences has been really valuable for us to understand the importance of creating cohesion between services, having monitoring of the servers and on how to make a better portal experience for communities. Since then we've evolved a lot with our newer community-server stacks based on Balena, such as Jurubeba and Guarita.

@luandro %mY2oyZBbXdsnhxwIXddsx2SIfIcynrsaFiE15UNSZ2M=.sha256

☸️ LoRa Mesh 📡

balaio_desenho_mapa.jpg
Balaio elders drawing a map of their territory

As with most implementations, we start off by holding a community-wide assembly, where we first introduce the idea o autonomy in communication and information infrastructures, and why that's relevant for them. I asked the elders to draw a map of their territory, and did a beautiful job at it.

balaio_mapa.jpg
Balaio map with sticky notes symbolising LoRa mesh nodes

To my surprise the original plan for the Lora network was targeting the wrong village. It turns out the Balaio village was 13Km away from the hilltop, much further then expected.

The hill at the middle of the territory is called Morro dos Seis Lagos (Six Lakes Hill) and it's theoretically a national park under the control of ICMBio. So the plan for my visit was to install the community-servers and show how the LoRa network works so that the communities could ask for permission to install a node at the hilltop.

When the villagers realised how simple a LoRa node is and the huge positive impact it could bring, they decided we should just go for it even without any approval.

balaio_abrindo_caminho.jpg
Young Balaio men opening up the river path with a chainsaw

Together with some of the youth who had experience hiking the hill we came up with a plan on where and how to place the LoRa node. Each of the 3 villages that were benefiting from the project sent representatives. Me and the boys from Balaio and Ya Mirim villages went by boat, while the guys from Parintins went by foot cutting thru the forest and met us at the base of the hill.

Since we weren't prepared for the installation, I had to recover an old solar panel. It was large and heavy, but would hopefully produce enough energy to keep the radio alive.

Our guides got a bit lost and we miscalculated the trail, so we walked in circles for an additional 3 hours in the jungle, and that's when the huge panel proved to be a big hassle.

But we finally managed to find a good campsite and the highest part of highest hill in the territory. Turns out none of them had been there before, and they weren't aware of anyone who had. Felt like true explorers.

balaio_no_territorio.jpg
Balaio men at the top of the tree fixing the solar panel and LoRa node

The guys from Parintins weren't prepared for camping, so they left at nightfall. Can't imagine them cutting back thru the jungle at night, but they made it back safely. We camped next to a beautiful lake, ate some of the dried fish and cassava flour we had and told stories of some of the mythical creatures of the forest. We slept in our hammocks and I confess being a bit afraid of the jaguars, but soon fell asleep.

We went back to the highest spot early morning. They cut the branches of the highest tree and fixed the panel. They fixed the Lora node to a wooden pole and fixed the pole to the tree as well, so it stood higher then any tree.

Very quickly we were able to get signal from the most distant village 13Km away, so the mission was a success 🎉

balaio_herois_lora.jpg
Our party of explorers right before descending the hill

We had nothing left to eat besides cassava flour, which they put in water. They call that Chibé. Not very delicious, but enough to give us energy for the trip back.

balaio_lora_rio.jpg
Checking for LoRa singal on way back thru the river

The ride back was pretty smooth and all we talked about was food. Wasn't able to signal from the hill node as there was huge blind-spot until very close to the village.

When we arrived, an angry Yanomami came to recover the boat. Turns out the boat we had taken wasn't from anyone they knew. Despite him looking really angry, it seems they have good relations and nothing happened.

The noodles with chicken we had afterwards was one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life.

cobertura_mensagem_lora.jpg
LoRa 915Mhz network coverage simulation made with RadioMobile with the villages to be connected and the first Meshtastic message between villages

The simulation which I only ran after the visit shows that the Balaio village isn't so great for reception. But we manged to establish communication between the villages. The moment me and Adelina were able to exchange message we felt we accomplished something very important.

I had taken only 5 Lora nodes and unfortunately one of them malfunctioned. I had to take the node from the Balaio village down from the roof so that it could be used with a phone. Despite the community-servers running Meshtastic-web, it wasn't able to store messages, so conversation logs were never kept.

The network was compromised by this malfunctioning node.

Conclusion

This experiment was the closest we came to successfully using LoRa to connect distant villages. Unfortunately we were just one node short.

I'll hopefully be visiting Balaio again early 2022, so we've already acquired more LoRa nodes and created a simple pub/bot which posts Meshtastic messages to SSB.

Setting up LoRa networks to connect remote villages have proved to be challenging, but we've advanced quite a lot in making this technology usable and accessible. Its low financial cost makes this very attractive to many isolated villages, so hopefully we'll continue trailing this path in the future.

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