Tapping knowledge, respecting rights of Indigenous and local communities could bolster efforts to save the Amazon

A group of Kayapó, Indigenous people who live in dispersed riverside villages, are shown marching to protest destructive development in the Amazon. Text reads Amazon on the brink: Communities and cultures in peril.
Photo: Todd Southgate

Third in a series

Indigenous peoples and local communities have lived in harmony with the Amazon forest for thousands of years, and their sustainable land use practices could help save the forest, according to a landmark 2021 assessment.

That report, produced by 200 scientists that comprise the Science Panel for the Amazon, said Indigenous and local communities have shaped food-producing landscapes across the forest while also protecting biological diversity.

While Indigenous territories and protected areas across eight South American countries encompass nearly half the Amazon forest, only 5% of the total deforestation in the Amazon has occurred in those areas, according to the Panel’s report.

The Science Panel recommends several actions to better safeguard forests in the protected areas, including:

  • Increasing funding for Indigenous peoples’ organizations and bolstering their capacity to protect forested areas.
  • Supporting the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities.
  • Providing economic incentives for non-timber forest products.
  • Recognizing and supporting the role women play as conservation leaders and practitioners of sustainable farming practices.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is supporting dissemination of the Panel’s study to international development banks, the public, media outlets and countries that regulate land use in the Amazon. Members of the Panel will share their findings Thursday at three gatherings set to run alongside the United Nations General Assembly meeting, in New York. Efforts to save the Amazon also will be a major focus of Climate Week 2022, which takes place in New York from Sept. 19-25.

Learn more at theamazonwewant.org.

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