World’s Indigenous peoples fighting to preserve the Amazon

2 mins read

To mark International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we visit the Amazon’s indigenous activists working to defend the rainforests against deforestation and land grabs.

Indigenous groups such as the Yanomamo and Kayapo have been living in the Amazon for thousands of years, slowly accumulating a detailed knowledge of the rainforest and methods to subsist from it.

However, today they need to share the forests with a growing number of settlers who seek to tap into the Amazon’s considerable natural resources.

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, and a vital ally in the fight against the climate crisis. Critically, the Amazon stores an estimated 200 billion tons of carbon in its soils and vegetation, yet large swathes of forest are being cleared for human use, pushing it closer to a tipping point.

More than 35 million people live in the Amazon, including almost three million indigenous peoples from over 350 indigenous groups – more than anywhere in the world. They have lived in the Amazon for millennia but face the destruction of their forest home due to illegal deforestation, habitat conversion and the resulting fires.

Recent analysis by WWF highlighted the crucial role of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLC) in protecting nature and biodiversity globally. It found that 91 per cent of IPLC lands are in “good” or “fair” ecological condition, demonstrating IPLC’s effective environmental guardianship.

Many of these lands, including areas of the Amazon, are home to some of the richest biodiversity in the world, while also being under serious threat from developers wanting to put the land to unsustainable human use such as agriculture or mining. There is an urgent need to uphold indigenous people’s rights to lands, territories and resources, not only to safeguard their well-being, but also to support them in their globally important efforts to tackle climate change and prevent biodiversity loss.