Often referred to as Earth’s “green lung”, the Amazon covers over 5.5 million km2 and is home to around 10% of global terrestrial biodiversity. However, even as a real sanctuary for biodiversity, the Amazon region is under severe threat. In addition to deforestation which, according to WWF France, has already resulted in the loss of approximately one fifth of this rainforest over the last 50 years, other major challenges include mining, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and forest fires. These threats are compounded by weak environmental policies and a failure to respect the rights of indigenous peoples.
Since 2021, the FFEM, alongside the AFD, has been actively supporting implementation of the TerrIndigena project with a subsidy of €12.7 million. This initiative aims to protect over 17 million hectares of indigenous territories across three countries in the Amazon basin: Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil. The TerrIndigena project places an emphasis on strengthening governance, monitoring the condition of the forests and pressures on the regions, as well as developing sustainable economic activities that respect the ancestral traditions of the indigenous communities.
Karen Colin de Verdière, project head of the Agriculture and Biodiversity division at AFD, underlines the critical importance of indigenous populations in preserving the Amazonian rainforest. The indigenous peoples in the Amazon region have developed conservation strategies successfully combining their socio-economic needs with biodiversity preservation. Their close relationship with nature, traditional ways of life and deep understanding of local ecosystems are valuable assets in maintaining the ecological balance of the region. According to Ms Colin de Verdière, the main goal of this project is to ensure the rights of communities are respected and their territories fully recognised. These communities will then be able to continue managing their territories sustainably and protecting the rainforest and its biodiversity.
In collaboration with 18 indigenous organisations and their local partners, such as the Gaia Amazonas Foundation (Colombia), the EcoCiencia Foundation (Ecuador) and the Instituto de Pesquisa e Formação Indígena - IEPE (Brazil), TerrIndigena is committed to protecting these vital territories and preserving the Amazon region’s unique biodiversity. The initiative also contributes to enhancing respect for, and the rights of, indigenous cultures while encouraging sustainable development and reducing inequalities among these peoples.
As regional coordinator of the project, Patricia Navas emphasises that through this initiative, encouraging progress has been seen in areas such as governance, improved community monitoring systems and sustainable economic initiatives for the indigenous people involved in the project.
The project has already paid dividends, benefiting 16 indigenous territories covering a total area of 17,494,140 hectares and directly impacting the lives of 3,777 people. It has strengthened the monitoring capabilities within indigenous communities, enabling 113 indigenous people to develop their ability to monitor the pressures, threats and changes to forest cover and so contribute to protecting their environment. In addition, TerrIndigena has backed 8 production activities based on sustainable practices to help preserve the forest and protect biodiversity.
The joint efforts of the partner organisations and indigenous communities prove the importance of collaboration in preserving the vital territories and unique biodiversity of the Amazon region. This collaborative approach has also inspired other indigenous peoples in South America, reinforcing the belief that the Amazon region is one of great ecological and cultural diversity, preserved through the ancestral knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities.
The TerrIndigena project is a cornerstone of FFEM strategy, allying preservation of the ecosystems essential to biodiversity and climate regulation with the wellbeing of local populations, while profoundly respecting Nature and traditional wisdom. According to Stéphanie Bouziges-Eschmann, Secretary-General of the FFEM, a large part of this project’s innovation lies in the crossover between scientific data, particularly from satellites, and the ancestral knowledge of local communities. In fact, the crossover between these two types of knowledge offers an unprecedented insight into the degradation of the Amazon forest and the species living there, and provides information critical for preserving this crucial ecosystem. This respectful and participatory approach helps enhance the capabilities of local communities and preserve their cultural heritage, while also protecting the environment.
As a result of the €7 million in additional funding from the AFD, the launch of a second phase of the project was announced at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal. This new phase represents a significant forward step in preserving the Amazon region and recognising the rights of the indigenous peoples. It promises to consolidate the progress already made, while opening up encouraging new perspectives for the region’s future.