April 22, 2022

Indigenous-led Conservation in the Upper Amazon

Indigenous-led Conservation in the Upper Amazon

The spark to fight big oil

We’re taking one step with One Earth. This project - led by Amazon Frontlines - will help conserve the cultural and environmental heritage of the upper Amazon. Here’s the story: 

When people from four ancestral nations of Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia came together – it was the first alliance of its kind in the region. The spark for this unity? The pollution and destruction of their Amazonian territories by industrialised nations. 

One Earth explains that Indigenous peoples - the Amazon’s ancestral guardians - have the experience and incentives to protect millions of acres of standing forest. But there is a lack of resources, tools and networks to defend against the 21st century’s mounting threats.

“When I was six years old in the mid 1960’s, I saw a helicopter for the first time. All of us children hid, spooked in the forest because we thought it was a new kind of bird.” This was the testimony of Emergildo Criollo – a Kofán man from the Ecuadorian Amazon at the 2018 Bioneers Conference.  “Our elders interpreted dreams about what all of this meant – the helicopters, the chainsaws, the white man.” 

Over the years, industrial-scale resource extraction has impacted Indigenous way of life in the region on many levels. Alicia Salazar is a Siona woman and a mother of 10 children. Her words at the Bioneers Conference movingly illustrate the unseen loss that rainforest destruction causes: 

“I wish I could speak to you in my own language today – so you can hear how it sounds – but I can’t. I have lost my mother tongue, like many others. I think that there are native people here in the room today. I believe you know what I am talking about. To feel knowledge slipping away.” 

Amazon Frontlines is a group of international human rights lawyers, journalists, activists and environmental specialists. Their work with Indigenous peoples in the Upper Amazon began over 10 years ago with a question: how can we – people raised in the cities of western civilization – best support the struggles of Indigenous peoples? 

 The result was the Clear Water project – harvesting rainwater to protect communities most at risk from the toxins of oil pollution.  

“The oil companies polluted the water and divided the people. For years it was like that. They tricked us and paid off our leaders.” Alicia explained at the Bioneers Conference. “If there was an oil spill, they would bring us cans of tuna – and tell us not to fish in the rivers. The water project brought our people together. It was like a spark went off in us.” 

That spark led to the creation of the Ceibo Alliance, an Indigenous-led nonprofit organisation made up of members of four Indigenous nations fighting for Indigenous cultural survival and the defence of the Amazon rainforest.  

Amazon Frontlines’ “on-the- ground, listen-first” approach has earned trust and respect from Indigenous nations across the Upper Amazon region. Together with Ceibo Alliance, they have innovated a partnership model building local solutions created by local people. In scaling these solutions, they have already succeeded in protecting over 700,000 acres of primary rainforest. 

One Earth’s funding project will help scale this pioneering, new model of globally backed, Indigenous-led conservation of the Upper Amazon; one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. 

Ceibo Alliance’s 30, full-time, Indigenous staff now organise from their centre in the rainforest. It’s from here that they coordinate high impact initiatives across 80 villages and over 5 million acres of primary rainforest.  

The Ceibo Alliance are now renowned globally, recognized by TIME100, the BBC, the UN Equator Prize, the Goldman Prize, and Bioneers.  

Take one step for One Earth. If this project excites you, please join us in shouting about it. 

We’ll give $1 every time you comment and share using #OneStep4OneEarth. Help us spread the word! Vivo X One Earth will support community giving to a total of $30k.

How will this funding be used? One Earth funding goes directly to Amazon Frontlines. Together with the Ceibo Alliance they will tackle the threats to Indigenous lands and cultures. Current projects cover many angles. Some of these are: 

  • Increasing food and medicine sovereignty 
  • Training and equipping Indigenous-led community land patrols to protect territory 
  • Women-led community micro-enterprises 
  • Reclaiming ownership of ancestral Indigenous lands through legal action 

If we act TOGETHER we can tackle the issues facing our planet. Solutions exist today, so we’re taking one step with One Earth to champion three Indigenous-led projects. 

They all represent solutions our planet needs now. With help, these projects can grow, driving change from the ground up. Each one will: 

  • protect lands that store carbon and contain rich biodiversity 
  • support farmers practicing regenerative farming methods 
  • preserve cultural knowledge – (elders know a thing or two about how people and planet can work in harmony!) 

Thank you! Or as is heard in the Amazon… Waponi , De’ohi, Chiga tsu afepueje, Surupá, Gracias!