Amazon Basin Project protects forests, livelihoods

We're helping indigenous peoples combat deforestation

EDF's Amazon Basin Project is working to equip indigenous peoples with the information, technical assistance, and skills they need to participate fully in national climate change policy discussions and official negotiations, and to ensure they benefit from efforts to preserve forests.

The Amazon Basin region of South America includes the world’s largest tropical rainforest and is home to almost 400 indigenous groups. Today, the exploitation of the tropical forests for timber, pasture and cropland is contributing significantly to climate change and jeopardizing the livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

Policies for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) provide economic incentives for forest conservation by taking into account the amount of carbon trees store and putting a value on living forests and their ecosystems. A critical component of making REDD policies effective is engaging indigenous peoples who both rely on the rainforests for their survival and have valuable knowledge of the forest lands.

Amazon Basin indigenous groups and REDD

About 400 indigenous groups live in the Amazon region, which includes Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

These indigenous peoples rely on the forests for shelter, food and all other aspects of their livelihoods.

Because they depend so heavily on the land and its natural resources for survival, indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to the UN Human Rights Council report on the impacts of climate change on human rights.

In order for REDD policies to play an effective role in curbing climate change, indigenous peoples must play a central role in REDD. In the past, many indigenous peoples have been cut out of political decision-making processes and have been allowed little say in the use of their territories.

Indigenous communities not only contribute crucial expertise and traditional knowledge about the forests they inhabit, but are also the best-suited to monitor and protect the trees upon which their cultural identity, physical health, and spiritual fulfillment depend.

We believe that as stewards of their lands, indigenous peoples must not only play an active role in developing and implementing REDD programs, but must also receive the majority of benefits from these initiatives.

EDF's work in the Amazon Basin

Through the Amazon Basin Project, EDF partners with local non-governmental groups such as the Coordinating Body for the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Basin (COICA), which helps national indigenous organizations from each of the Amazon countries to coordinate efforts on issues such as REDD, climate change, cultural preservation, and economic development.

Here are some of the ways EDF works to support the Amazon Basin Project:

  • Funding: We assist indigenous organizations in obtaining funding for REDD capacity-building projects from international sources such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.
  • Information: We help conduct REDD workshops in the Amazon, using curriculum created in collaboration with COICA’s indigenous leaders. These workshops, which EDF co-sponsors with Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) and Amazon Institute for Environmental Research (IPAM), inform indigenous peoples on a range of issues including climate change, forest governance, land tenure, and the benefits and risks of REDD.
  • Training: EDF, in collaboration with Woods Hole Research Center, trains indigenous peoples to measure trees and monitor forest carbon, building teams of skilled indigenous technicians. The information they collect can be used to verify satellite data of Amazon forest cover, providing more accurate deforestation reporting.

Indigenous peoples are central to the success of REDD and curbing climate change, but without the support and knowledge of the indigenous peoples, REDD policies will not work. An effective solution to global climate change must include REDD policies that engage indigenous peoples.

Amazon by the numbers

  • Nearly 50%of moist tropical forest in the world is in the Amazon - Source

  • Almost 60%of global tropical deforestation is in the Amazon - Source

  • Almost 400indigenous groups live in the Amazon - Source

  • 8 countries and the French overseas Territory of Guiana share the Amazon forests (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela)

Indigenous Territories (orange) and Protected National Areas (green) in the Amazon Basin.

Indigenous Territories (orange) and Protected National Areas (green) in the Amazon Basin.
Larger version [PDF] | Source