Protecting indigenous lands in the Amazon Basin

Our aim is to combat deforestation while securing local livelihoods

The Amazon Basin region of South America includes the world’s largest tropical rainforest and is home to almost 400 indigenous groups2. Today, the exploitation of tropical forests for timber, pasture and cropland is contributing significantly to climate change and jeopardizing the livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

EDF’s work in the Amazon Basin aims 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.

Indigenous groups and REDD+

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 put 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.

In order for REDD+ policies to successfully curb the most severe impacts climate change, indigenous peoples must play a central role in REDD+ negotiations. 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.

Significant strides on this front were made at the UNFCCC climate negotiations held in December 2015. The Paris Agreement now contains explicit references to indigenous peoples, their rights, and their traditional knowledge- a key milestone in protecting indigenous lands going forward.

EDF’s work in the Amazon Basin

Throughout the Amazon Basin, EDF has partnered 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 indigenous groups in the Amazon Basin:

  • Funding: We assist indigenous organizations in obtaining funding for REDD+ capacity-building projects from international sources such as United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).
  • Economic Development: To help improve access to markets and finance for Amazon indigenous peoples, EDF and a group of Amazon-based and international organizations developed Canopy Bridge, the first geospatial database of indigenous products and producer organizations in the Amazon who are engaging (or attempting to engage) with broader national and international markets.

Indigenous peoples are vital to the success of forest protection. By working together, Indigenous communities are better able to monitor and protect the lands upon which their cultural identity, physical health, and spiritual fulfillment depend on.

Amazon by the numbers1

  • Nearly 50%of all remaining tropical forests are in the Amazon
  • Over 50%of all tropical deforestation is in the Amazon
  • Almost 400indigenous groups live in the Amazon
  • 8 countriesand one territory share the Amazon forests
Indigenous Territories (orange) and Protected National Areas (green) in the Amazon Basin.

Indigenous Territories (orange) and Protected National Areas (green) in the Amazon Basin.
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  1. Amazon by the numbers:
    • Nearly 50% of all remaining tropical forests are in the Amazon: WWF
    • Over 50% of all remaining tropical forests are in the Amazon: Saving Forests at Risk WWF
    • Almost 400 indigenous groups live in the Amazon: QUÉ ES LA COICA
    • 8 countries and one territory share the Amazon forests: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela