Why forests

Protecting Indigenous People

Photo credit: CIMA

Rainforests are bursting with diverse plants, animals, and bird species. And amongst all this incredible colour, noise and bustling life are the native people who have lived in these ancient forests for thousands of years.

Many of these indigenous communities have withstood cultural exploitation and religious conversion by Europeans. They each have their own distinct cultures and beliefs rooted in pre-colonial societies and their practices, food, medicine and clothing has largely remained unchanged since the time of their ancestors.

And even though these populations are often more vulnerable and scattered than they once were, their distinctive ethnic customs and languages manage to live on.

The question is, do we have an ethical responsibility to protect – even support – their way of live? The answer, of course, is a resounding ‘yes’.

Under threat

Today though, how indigenous populations live is under very real threat, and deforestation is partly to blame.

These people, sometimes referred to as Aboriginal or First Nations, make up about 5% of the global population and they are amongst the world’s poorest people. And about 150 million of them live in or close to forests and are dependent on forests for their survival1.

These communities are timeless. They are symbols of a more connected and ecologically aware way of living – and we want to help them in any way we can. So by working together with these communities to protect rainforest habitats, we’re helping to both preserve their ancient cultural heritage and safeguard our own future.

Another way of looking at it is that indigenous populations are natural conservationists. It is in the interests of their survival to work towards the long-term protection of our planet’s environmental assets.

And it goes even deeper. The cultural values that native communities live by are also often intimately connected to the natural world, which is seen as a source of great spiritual and material value.

We are to blame here, so it’s up to us to help reverse the systematic undermining of rights and interests that indigenous people are fighting to defend.

First among equals

As rainforests are increasingly exploited for commercial and political gain, the way indigenous people are treated has become a focus for the international community. Some forest conservation efforts have even been called into question for not adequately engaging and consulting with these local communities.

We strongly believe that it is the duty of any conservation project to safeguard the way of life of the indigenous populations that live in a forest ecosystem. Their welfare must always be our primary concern.

Case study: Preserving heritage and value in Peru

projects-cordillera-azul-yamino-community

Women leaders from Yamino Community using ancient techniques to create unique handcrafts

No less than 34 indigenous communities live within our Cordillera Azul project in the Peruvian Amazon, including some groups who live in voluntary seclusion.

These communities are the first stewards of the forest: living proof of the project’s benefits to nature, people and our climate. And we’re passionate about preserving the immense cultural, spiritual and creative value they bring to our world.

For example, the Yamino community is working right now with a local university to revive their traditional handicrafts.

Read more about the Cordillera Azul project here.

Make change happen

It’s important to know that Ecosphere+ works to the highest ethical standards.

Our many global projects are anchored in the spirit of the principle of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), as set out in the IFC Performance Standards and the Forest People’s Programme.

Help us protect our beautiful rainforests and the ancient way of life of the incredible communities that live in them. Find out more about the work we do all over the world. We invite you to join us.

Helping to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable Development Goal 1 – No Poverty
Sustainable Development Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth
Sustainable Development Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities

[1] World Bank (March 16, 2016) Enhance Livelihoods of Forest Communities. Accessed March 17, 2017