Listen to the Amazon indigenous peoples’ voices

As COP25 is drawing to a close, the importance of the Amazon in the global fight against climate change and to the indigenous communities leading the fight to protect the rainforest has never been so clear. At the same time, the huge deforestation in and destruction of the Amazon not only endanger the ecosystem and nature, but especially the lives and cultures of the communities protecting it.


Tanja Brok

The Amazon rainforest, the largest in the world, is a hotspot of biodiversity and plays a crucial role in the world’s climate. We cannot afford to put the Amazon rainforest at risk. We need forests to limit global warming and prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Indigenous people are key to protecting the forest

The rainforest is also home to many indigenous peoples and local communities. Forest protection is key for indigenous and local communities, and in return, indigenous lands have proven to be the best measure against deforestation. In areas where their land rights are respected, there is less deforestation and biodiversity is maintained. But their land and lives are under huge pressure. The indigenous people are on the frontlines, facing powerful agricultural, mining and logging industries and are the first ones to be confronted with the devastating effects of deforestation and destruction of the rainforest. Logging (both legal and illegal), the expansion of arable land and extractive industries are turning the forests into everyday products, like beef, soy, timber and aluminium. This huge and global demand does not only lead to deforestation and land expropriation but also to increasing violence against indigenous communities.

On Saturday 7 December, and while the COP25 was in full speed in Madrid, Firmino Guajajara and Raimundo Guajajara, two leaders of the Guajajara people (indigenous people in the Brazilian state of Maranhão), were murdered. This is the second shooting attack on the indigenous Guajajara people in less than two months. On November 1, guardian of the forest Paulo Paulino Guajajara was murdered in an ambush inside his own territory, the Araribóia Indigenous Land.

Sônia Guajajara, one of the leaders of the Guajajara people and coordinator of the indigenous peoples association of Brazil (APIB) said: “These crimes are not isolated cases, they reflect the hatred that has been spread by the highest authority of the country against us, indigenous peoples.”

She and other indigenous leaders were present at COP25 to demand urgent action to take indigenous rights as a priority and respect indigenous lives and culture. In Madrid, they have shared their stories and strategies in protecting their land and rights and discussed how they contribute to saving forests, combating climate change, and advancing on the reduction of inequality, promoting well-being and securing natural resources.

Indigenous peoples’ participation in government decisions

Indigenous peoples’ participation in government decisions is crucial. “States cannot decide without our participation,” said Nára Baré, coordinator of the indigenous organizations in Brazil (COIAB). Protecting the Amazon is not only the indigenous peoples’ responsibility. We must stand with them, listen and take action. It’s about their and our future.

“Our rights need to be guaranteed in actions to combat climate change. Climate change cannot be separated from indigenous and human rights.” Nára Baré

All Eyes on the Amazon is a program, coordinated by Hivos, to support indigenous peoples and local communities in their fight against deforestation and ecosystem degradation by protecting their rights. It combines state-of-the-art technology, such as satellites, innovative apps and drones, to detect deforestation, degradation, and human rights violations, record them and eventually stop them.

An article by Tanja Brok, Hivos.

From left to right in the picture above: Eliana Rojas (HIVOS), Gregorio Mirabal (COICA), Nará Bare (COIAB), Edilena Krikati (COAPIMA), Erisvan Guajajara (Mídia Índia), Joenia Wapichana (Câmara dos Deputados Brasil)