Kakawa: The offline Earth Defenders Toolkit device

For many of our grassroots partners, often Indigenous communities living in close relationship with the ecosystems of their ancestral territories, accessing the the Earth Defenders Toolkit (EDT) platform has been a challenge due to a lack of internet connectivity. To address this challenge, we created Kakawa, an offline version of the EDT, drawing on our team’s previous experience in community networking and establishing local servers in Indigenous communities in Brazil.

Kakawa (a name derived from the original word for « cocoa » in the Mesoamerican Nahuatl) allows for easy, offline access to the Earth Defenders Toolkit through simple hardware, like a Raspberry Pi, and includes a user-friendly, easy-to-install software stack. Our team provides remote monitoring support, ensuring that both content and software are synchronized and up-to-date with the Earth Defenders Toolkit Cloud.

Last May, at the Earth Defenders Toolkit gathering in Ecuador, we distributed 25 Zimaboard kits to our close partners. These kits are compact computers equipped with a Wi-Fi hotspotand Kakawa pre-installed. Users need only attach the Wi-Fi card and antennas, turn on the Zimaboard, and a local Wi-Fi signal becomes immediately available, allowing for access to the EDT platform tools, stories, and documentation.

It also includes a community cloud, which facilitates localized media sharing and is capable of syncing with the Earth Defender Toolkit cloud for updates when connected to the internet, as well as an offline app hub with the rest of the applications from the Earth Defenders Toolkit’s curated catalog. Used with a specialized battery unit, such as the SugarPi, Kakawa can become a fully mobile version of the Earth Defenders Toolkit, allowing a community server to operate anywhere—even in areas without electricity or the internet—to share or gather data.

During a hands-on session at the gathering in Ecuador, we simulated community roles with those who had received Zimaboards, organizing participants into three groups—monitors focusing on mapping and monitoring, storytellers concentrated on media and narrative, and Elders responsible for coordination and decision-making. The rangers engaged with the Mapeo workflow using Kakawa, while storytellers employed Terrastories and the community cloud to bring their tales to life. The Elders assisted both groups with their insights and cultural knowledge. After these activities, many participants eagerly spoke with our team during breaks, excited to explore Kakawa’s full potential.

 As with all of the tools we offer, we are continually co-designing and improving them alongside our partners. We are currently working to improve Kakawa’s interface and to develop an easy-to-understand chat interface with advanced voice interaction based on feedback from our partners that they would benefit from more intuitive user-device communication. 

Please contact us if you’d like to learn more, sample the demo, or set up Kakawa for your community. You can also visit the Kakawa website for an online demonstration of the interface and software stack. On the documentation page, you’ll find instructions on how to setup your own device.

Deeper Dive

Let’s take a deeper dive in understanding use cases for Kakawa and the tech behind it.

Partners already engaged with Mapeo can download the most recent installers, personalized configurations, and background maps offline. Communities collaborating actively with us benefit from consistent syncing of custom content generated with the help of our team. The Earth Defender’s Toolkit Cloud, which we employ for data storage and synchronization on the cloud, is open-source and capable of being self-hosted on servers.

The device hosts a Mapeo instance, ensuring secure data centralization and displaying maps exclusively on the local network. A notable innovation is the Mapeo-Terrastories bridge, which seamlessly transforms mapped items into importable data for Terrastories narratives.

Terrastories is running on the device, offering an intuitive setup process for community-centric storytelling. In addition, the device supports Āhau, a Maori platform for cultural documentation and genealogy, syncing with community devices. Our community cloud facilitates localized media sharing, capable of syncing with the Earth Defender Toolkit cloud for updates when connected to the internet.

Kakawa boasts a comprehensive catalog of applications from the Earth Defenders Toolkit Toolfinder. These apps are available for download on diverse platforms including Android, Linux, Windows, and macOS, and are tailored for offline use. For Android there’s even an offline app repository to be used with F-Droid.

Applications such as Terrastories, Mapeo, Mapeo to Terrastories Bridge, Āhau Pataka are running on the device and ready to use. All the documentation, manuals and use-case stories from communities for these tools has been scrapped and is fully available offline thanks to WebRecorder.

There’s a lot built into Kakawa, and grasping it’s full potential is challenging. So don’t hesitate to get in touch in case you’d like to learn more about it!