2021 Annual Report

A Message From Our Executive Director

With the pandemic raging across the world this year, 2021 was the deadliest year of our lives. Paradoxically, it was also the year when the world started to collectively come back online. For Rainforest Foundation US, that meant returning to the communities we’ve been serving for decades. Because illegal loggers, gold miners, and narco-traffickers didn’t let this virus deter them from destroying rainforests, it was our responsibility to do our part in keeping them standing.

We couldn’t afford to wait. A report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed that we are heading towards possibly irreversible climate disaster if we don’t dramatically change course now. 

It’s common knowledge that changing course starts with protecting our rainforests. And more and more, experts are recognizing what Rainforest Foundation US has always known: protecting our rainforests starts with protecting the rights of the indigenous peoples who live there. That’s why at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, five governments and a handful of private donors committed $1.7 billion to indigenous peoples’ land rights. Too often, funding earmarked for rainforest protection hasn’t made its way to the people who can make the strongest impact—the ones living on the front lines of the rainforest’s destruction. We’re hopeful that this pledge will fund direct finance mechanisms to rainforest communities—like the Rainforest Alert forest patrol program we recently launched.  

After all, this was the year that a peer-reviewed scientific journal published a study on Rainforest Alert, our forest patrol (or “community monitoring”) program, which revealed that—with little more than a smartphone—indigenous communities could reduce deforestation on their territories by 52% in a single year. We see those results as sufficient proof in the efficacy of our program, which we will significantly scale up in the years to come.

We have no other choice. The world is on fire. To save it, we must stand behind the people who’ve always protected it best.


Suzanne Pelletier

Suzanne Pelletier
Executive Director
Rainforest Foundation US

Our Mission

The mission of Rainforest Foundation US is to support indigenous and traditional peoples of the world’s rainforests in their efforts to protect the environment, and to fulfill their rights by assisting them in:

Meet Our Team and Supporters

Headshot of Erin Samueli

I’m excited about Rainforest Foundation because it seems that every decision made through the chain is rooted in community desires and needs. They approach indigenous peoples in the Amazon with a degree of respect and reverence that the population, frankly, is due.

Second Gen Philanthropy

Erin Samueli, the Samueli Foundation’s New Director of Social Justice, Opens Up About Why She Gives to Rainforest Foundation US

Erin Samueli has always been passionate about earth science. It’s what drove her to her first career, as a middle school science teacher at the Claire Lilenthal school in San Francisco’s Marina District. But as someone born into wealth she’s also hypersensitive to social inequity, so when she saw the inequity playing out in the city’s school system, she decided to reconsider her life path.

“I have the means and ability to affect large-scale social change,” Samueli explains. “I needed to do more.”

Shifting gears, she took a job at her parents’ philanthropy organization—the Samueli Foundation—as its new Director of Social Justice. 

Samueli is refreshingly honest and humble about her lot in life. But she also sees it as an advantage.

“I’m the offspring of the original moneymaker,” she says. “But that allows me to look at the concept of wealth in a more critical way. I don’t have a tight connection to each dollar, because I didn’t make it. And so I think G2 [second generation] philanthropists are reckoning with this identity we were born into.”

While Samueli is quick to praise her parents (“They’re very forward-thinking,” she says), she adds that second-generation philanthropists tend to view expertise in a different way, placing priority on organizations that are “proximate to the problem.” 

That’s what drove her to Rainforest Foundation US, where she’s helped support a variety of efforts in Peru, including the expansion of the organization’s Rainforest Alert programming into six communities, and a mobile legal defense school. All told, the Samueli Foundation donated $220,000 in their first year of supporting Rainforest Foundation US—a key funding source that allows the organization to greatly broaden its impact.

“I’m excited about Rainforest Foundation because it seems that every decision made through the chain is rooted in community desires and needs. They approach indigenous peoples in the Amazon with a degree of respect and reverence that the population, frankly, is due. I’m excited to fund this nonprofit; it’s a model that can and should be replicated on a large scale.”

That’s what true success looks like to me: expanding consciousness within the community about the value of protecting the forest. That’s what makes me proud in this village. They’re proud of me for guarding this forest.

Talent Unlocked

Kichwa Forest Patrol Instructor Mao Noteño Noteño On His Journey From College Dropout to High-Tech Forest Protection

Mao Noteño Noteño, a Kichwa forest patrol instructor in the Peruvian Amazon, loves using state-of-the-art technology to defend the rainforests. It feels like a natural fit—the kind of work he’s been preparing for his entire life. 

“It’s easy,” the 35-year-old Noteño says. “Take pictures, capture geolocation—I’ve always been very good with technology. I learned it really fast.”

What’s more, he knows his work is important. “We need to protect the forest, just like the forest protects us. The forest absorbs contaminants from the air. The brooks inside the forest give us clean water to drink. These forests give us life.”   

It’s the kind of job he always wanted to do—and one that he wouldn’t have been able to, had it not been for Rainforest Foundation US. At the age of 21, he had to abandon his computer science program at the university when his father’s wages were slashed. 

“He didn’t have enough to pay for my studies,” Noteño explains. “We didn’t even have enough money to eat. So I dropped out and joined the army.”

But ten years later, when Rainforest Foundation US came to Monterrico offering training in smartphone technology to stop deforestation, Noteño was intrigued. At a town hall, the community elected Noteño and two others to become trained in defending the rainforest.

Noteño has seen firsthand the rewards of his labor. His work has taken him on long trips to document deforestation, like when he went three days along the Tambor River in northeast Peru to take pictures of deforestation done by narcotrafficking coca growers. He presented that evidence to prosecutors, which in turn helped bring about a criminal prosecution.

Today, the work he does has him holding his head up high. And he loves spreading the word to other indigenous communities. 

“It makes me feel capable, showing this technology to others. And I feel their trust in me. I hope that Rainforest Foundation continues to empower us with technology. Because that’s what true success looks like to me: expanding consciousness within the community about the value of protecting the forest. That’s what makes me proud in this village. They’re proud of me for guarding this forest.”

Every person has this little bit of purpose in their heart that drives them. And you can help in more ways than you’d think, if you listen to your heart.

The Sweet Taste of Success

High School Junior Virginia Ladd on Making the Rainforest Healthier, One Pie at a Time

Virginia Ladd, 17 years old, grew up in the shadow of environmental destruction. A native of Mobile, Alabama on the Gulf of Mexico, Ladd was only five years old at the time of the British Petroleum oil spill, which dumped 210 million gallons of oil into the waters just beyond her door.

“We didn’t go to the bay as often that summer,” says Ladd. “That’s when I first started becoming conscious of the environment. And climate change.”

But it wasn’t until Ladd was taking an AP Environmental Science class that she began thinking about how she could take action.

“It just reminded me about what had happened to the Mobile River Delta,” Ladd says, a previously pristine and unique ecosystem devastated by urbanization, haphazard dam construction, and the aforementioned disaster. Subsequent research into the effects of rainforest destruction on indigenous peoples only deepened Ladd’s heartbreak—and increased her resolve. 

“I thought to myself: What can I do?” 

The answer, Ladd decided, was to bake. So she decided to organize a bake sale, enlisting the help of a half dozen volunteers at Christchurch Cathedral, her Episcopal congregation. For three days in the lead up to Thanksgiving, she and her fellow volunteers baked (and then delivered) over fifty pecan, pumpkin, and apple pies to the Mobile community, with all proceeds going to Rainforest Foundation US.

“The apple pie recipe was my baby,” Ladd says, noting that she made “at least seven” test pies in the lead up to the event.

Ladd found the experience energizing, and enriching in a way she’d never previously known.

“I’m a person with a lot of climate anxiety,” Ladd says. “But we can still limit global warming. The worst can still be avoided. I guess I would say that every person has this little bit of purpose in their heart that drives them. And you can help in more ways than you’d think, if you listen to your heart.”

When I come to them I’m not Plinio Pizango of Rainforest Foundation US. I’m Plinio, another indigenous person who has gotten the opportunity to work inside a foreign institution. And because they see that, it gives them faith in what we do.

Between Two Worlds

Rainforest Foundation US Staffer Plinio Pizango Hualinga Opens Up About His Unique Satisfaction in Coming to Rights-Based Forest Protection Work as an Indigenous Kampu Piyawi

Plinio Pizango Hualinga was born into this fight. As an indigenous Kampu Piyawi growing up in Yurimaguas—a small city in the Peruvian Amazon—he was immediately exposed to overt, everyday racism. It came from classmates, who tormented him with racist jokes at school. 

And he was exposed to the destruction of the rainforest as well. During holiday breaks, he would travel with his father to the Kampu Piyawi village of Irapaiy, where he would see firsthand the beauty of the forest.

Or, at least, he would see the beauty of what was still left.

“The river used to be wide and deep,” says Pizango. “But in the 1970s they cut down all the trees from the riverbanks. And so the river evaporated. When my father was a child, he would play in that river with the dolphins. But now, come dry season, it’s only a few inches deep.”

For much of his early career, Pizango’s twin interests in indigenous peoples’ rights and rainforest protection pulled him in different directions. He worked with the Peruvian federal government’s Ministry of Environment, but wanted to do more for indigenous peoples. He worked with indigenous rights groups, but found they weren’t doing enough for the environment.

Today, he feels at home with Rainforest Foundation US, where he serves as a vital liaison between the organization and the indigenous communities we serve.

“When I come to them I’m not Plinio Pizango of Rainforest Foundation US. I’m Plinio, another indigenous person who has gotten the opportunity to work inside a foreign institution. And because they see that, it gives them faith in what we do.”

To this day, he has a clear memory of his favorite moment on the job, which came six months into his employment. The village of Nuevo Saposoa had detected illegal deforestation brought on by an invading coca grower, and the apu (village leader) went to confront the deforester.

“He showed the coca grower a satellite map of deforestation. He explained that they’d collected evidence. And he said he was going to present it to authorities. The coca grower looked around for a minute, and then said, ‘Give me a week to get my things out of here.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, this information is power.’”

Key Victories of 2021

Proven Impact with Rainforest Alert

In 2021 Rainforest Foundation US expanded Rainforest Alert, our technology-based forest patrol program (also referred to within the scientific community as “community monitoring”). Rainforest Foundation US is working with indigenous forest patrollers, equipping them with affordable, state-of-the-art technology that they can use to detect and document illegal deforestation on their territories. With this data, communities can bring evidence to persuade law enforcement to investigate their claims, and involve policymakers to help end environmental crimes. 

A forest patroller flies a drone
A forest patroller in Pucallpa, Peru using the latest drone technology during a workshop.

This year, we scaled up Rainforest Alert from three to twenty communities, supporting forest stewardship of over 540 square miles (more than 140,000 hectares) of Amazonian territories. As part of this initiative, we trained over 60 forest patrollers in the Peruvian states of Loreto and Ucayali. 

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a several-year peer-reviewed study of our program, which was conducted by Columbia and Johns Hopkins Universities as part of the Evidence in Governance and Politics research network. The highly-publicized study found that indigenous communities applying the Rainforest Alert program methodology lost 52% less forests than control groups in the first year alone. These results mark a tremendous victory for the program, showing concrete evidence of the efficacy of our forest patrol program.

Producing Evidence, Protecting Traditional Lands in Guyana

Between 2012 and 2020, the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) —in collaboration with Rainforest Foundation US and Forest Peoples Programme—researched the history of land tenure throughout the rainforests of Guyana, resulting in the publication of a report called “Our Land, Our Life”. This report will be key in the indigenous peoples of Guyana’s continuing struggle for territorial recognition of their land rights, as well as their battle against mining and other destructive activities. By documenting the historic occupation and sacred significance of these landscapes, we are  collaborating on their case for continued and expanded territorial recognition. 

Members of Karisparu Village, Guyana, identify customary use areas on a map
Members of Karisparu Village, Guyana, identify customary use areas on a map.

Researchers found that Guyana’s indigenous peoples continue to face a number of threats to their land security, including failure to recognize collective territories, inadequate recognition of customary lands, demarcation errors, mapping problems, land conflicts, and a lack of clarity of land titles. We helped produce recommendations based on interviews with 85 villages. 

In addition to these reports, Rainforest Foundation US provided technical support for the development of their geographic database, consolidating the APA’s nearly 20 years of knowledge gathered from the field working with indigenous communities and district councils. The database will be managed and continuously updated by APA and local indigenous partners.

The database features three maps focusing on various topics important to indigenous peoples in Guyana. An Overview Map provides information on titled lands, villages, protected areas, mining claims and indigenous use areas. A Threats Map pinpoints a variety of threats, accompanied by written descriptions and photographic or satellite evidence. Finally, the Forest Protections Opportunities Map observes five areas in western Guyana under active conservation planning by local district councils. APA will add future maps and areas as data becomes available. With these tools, communities are able to provide crucial, evidence-based claims to authorities who can intervene and properly address environmental crimes.

Federal Funding Awarded for Mesoamerican Forest Peoples' Leadership

In 2021 Rainforest Foundation US and the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB) were awarded our first grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the B’atz Regional Institutional Strengthening Project. This $2 million in federal funding will go towards a project designed to bolster sovereignty of local indigenous peoples’ organizations in Mexico and Central America. 

The award, managed by the USAID’s Mission in Guatemala, will include:

  • Establishing AMPB as a legal entity; 
  • Setting the Mesoamerican Territorial Fund in motion, creating a centralized system to channel resources to indigenous and local communities;
  • Bolstering the Women’s Coordination, which focuses on the rights of indigenous and community women; and
  • Strengthening the Mesoamerican Leadership School, which is training a new generation of indigenous and community leaders.
A Guna women's rights activist attends a women's summit
A Guna women’s rights activist attends a women’s summit supported by USAID Guatemala, Rainforest Foundation US, and the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests as part of the B’atz institutional strengthening project.

AMPB is an alliance made up of indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ organizations that manage their territories in the major forested areas throughout Central America, including in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. There are approximately 24 million indigenous people living in Central America, or a little less than the total population of Australia. Protecting rainforests is integral in the fight against climate change, and indigenous peoples have consistently shown themselves to be amongst the most effective defenders of these forests. More than 60% of the forests of Central America are located on formally recognized indigenous peoples’ or community lands—far higher than any other region in the world. But the region’s indigenous people continue to suffer disproportionate levels of hardship, hampering their ability to stand up against the drivers of deforestation. Strengthening indigenous peoples’ organizations, networks, and local communities are crucial to changing that equation.

This is Rainforest Foundation US’s first significant USAID grant, and portends a serious expansion of our partnerships north of the equator. By helping AMPB register as a legal entity, this grant will allow AMPB to better support national-level community leaders under threat—a problem that pervades the indigenous rights movement in Central America.

Pandemic Relief in the Amazon Basin

Conselho Indígena de Roirama (CIR), a partner organization of Rainforest Foundation US, distributing supplies in Brazil
Conselho Indígena de Roirama (CIR), a partner organization of Rainforest Foundation US, distributing supplies in Brazil.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rainforest Foundation US partnered with over 30 nonprofit and grassroots organizations in a massive effort to collectively mobilize humanitarian aid to indigenous peoples of the Amazon Basin. The collective, known as the Amazon Emergency Fund (AEF), successfully raised and distributed over 3 million USD in emergency humanitarian aid, with the crucial support of Rainforest Foundation US acting as the program’s fiscal sponsor. 

In close collaboration with the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), the AEF was responsible for distributing critical services and supplies in the wake of the pandemic, to indigenous and traditional communities underserved by their federal governments. Over 8,000 families in 150 communities of nine countries of the Amazon received critical food provisions, emergency transportation, medical supplies and PPE, as well as small grants to support economic revitalization in areas devastated by the sudden change in access to global markets during the pandemic. The AEF also provided an important learning experience for all involved in how to establish joint governance of funds between indigenous organizations and NGO allies in a situation that required rapid and agile responses.

Valley of Kaieteur Falls, Guyana

A Roadmap to Success: A Message From Our Board Chair

The mission of Rainforest Foundation US is simple: to protect and conserve critical rainforest lands by empowering the indigenous and traditional peoples who live there and who rely on those lands for their economic and cultural well-being.  

Though the execution of this apparently straightforward mission can at times be challenging, I am proud that with your support and assistance, our team has achieved impressive success. Despite the difficulties brought on by the global pandemic, the past several years have been a time of growth for our organization. Over the past six years, through the generosity of our donors, our total support has increased 579% to $7,144,343 in 2021 and our team has grown sixfold. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our team, we have expanded our indigenous partnership network from 47 to 172 communities, while extending our rainforest protection to roughly 30,000 square miles (5.8 million hectares)—an increase in coverage the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.  

In addition, our trailblazing Rainforest Alert forest patrol (or “community monitoring”) program, which employs satellite-based capabilities to monitor lands in partnership with indigenous communities, was shown to be highly effective in reducing deforestation in a peer-reviewed Columbia University study. With those results, we plan to expand this program throughout the Amazon basin, starting with coverage of 39 communities in Peru in 2022. 

We have also expanded our funding partnerships beyond our extremely important relationships with individuals and foundations. In a testament to our reach and credibility, we have [for the first time] begun working with the United States Agency for International Development; we received a $2 million grant this year to develop multi year programming in Central America with our partners at the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests. With this award, we’ll be strengthening indigenous organizations in Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica for the first time; re-engaging with Guatemala, after a hiatus since 2018; and deepening our work in Panama.

But not all of our success can be measured quantitatively, in number of acres preserved or countries served. For example, we are thrilled that—after seven years of legal advocacy—a district attorney in Peru will next year open a criminal trial against logging company executives for the murder of indigenous activists in the Amazonian village of Saweto. If convicted, it will be the first time in Peruvian history that logging executives—not just low-level “triggermen”—are held criminally responsible for the murder of indigenous peoples. This would constitute a powerful message of deterrence to criminal syndicates who have intimidated, threatened, and murdered indigenous forest defenders with impunity to illegally profit from rainforest degradation (through illegal logging, mining and clearing for agriculture). Meanwhile, we continue our work with regional indigenous peoples’ organizations in Guyana to strengthen their country’s Amerindian Act, a foundational task that has cascading implications for cultural integrity and forest protection across that nation.

As you can see, a lot is happening, of which we should all be proud. Yet the challenges and urgency have never been greater. Despite our victories, every year the Amazon rainforest shrinks and more areas suffer degradation, jeopardizing the cultural integrity and way of life of forest peoples—and our planet’s future. Terrifyingly, recent studies suggest that the Amazon is approaching a tipping point in which its fragile ecosystem could collapse in a cascade of drought and heat. Our organization and team are proud to be on the frontlines, with our indigenous partners and with you, our supporters, battling to arrest and reverse this trend. 

There is no greater threat to the planet than climate change. Deforestation is a major contributor to that change. And there is no better tool against deforestation than working with traditional forest peoples to help them preserve their lands. 

All of us at Rainforest Foundation US are grateful for your commitment and support. As proud as I am of our growth and accomplishments, in the face of the ongoing daily loss of forest habitat there is much more to do. Rainforest Foundation US is pursuing strategies which have proven to be successful. I am thrilled by the prospect of how much more can be achieved with your continued help.    

Thank you for being part of our team.


John W. Copeland
Board Chair
Rainforest Foundation US

Revenues & Expenses

Giving that builds resilient communities that protect forests to help fight the climate emergency 

Your support has helped strengthen local indigenous communities and regional indigenous peoples’ organizations in their ability to protect the forests. With your help, our impact continues to spread. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you!

Revenue & Support 2021

Expenses 2021

Assets 2020 2021
Net Start of Year $1,454,419 $3,202,940
Change in Net $1,748,521 $2,310,202
Net End of Year $3,202,940 $5,513,142

All financial figures past and present can be found on Rainforest Foundation US’s fiscal year 990 filings on our Financials & Transparency page.

Our Partners

By investing directly in indigenous communities, RFUS connects indigenous peoples with the tools, training, and resources to be effective advocates and protectors of the forests they call home. Our global, regional, and local partners are the key to realizing our mission. When you invest in us, you invest in them. 

Global/Regional Partners

Partners in Brazil

Partners in Guyana

Partners in Peru

Partners in Mesoamerica

Partners Supported by Amazon Emergency Fund

Support Our Work

Join us in creating a more sustainable future for generations to come

Rainforest Foundation US is tackling the major challenges of our day: deforestation, the climate crisis, and human rights violations. Your commitment moves us one step closer to creating a more sustainable and just future.

When you donate to RFUS, you support indigenous communities in Central and South America in their fight for their rights and for the nature we all depend on. 

Your contribution makes the following possible:

Please consider making a monthly contribution. Our monthly donors provide vital and reliable aid to our indigenous partners as they work to ensure that tropical forests can keep capturing and storing carbon while also producing fresh air and clean water for generations to come.

Rainforest Foundation US is committed to the highest standards of moral and ethical behavior and employs specific practices to combat the risk of financial irregularities. RFUS policy requires internal controls to prevent financial irregularities, including authorization, segregation of duties, reconciliation, monitoring, and safeguarding of assets in accordance with best practices. Additionally, all RFUS employees are encouraged to report any known or suspected financial irregularities, and have access to do so anonymously as outlined in our whistleblower policy.

GATC – Global Alliance of Territorial Communities

The Global Alliance of Territorial Communities is a coalition of indigenous and local communities of the Amazon Basin, Brazil, Indonesia, Mesoamerica, and the Congo Basin. Together they represent forest peoples in 24 countries, and protect more than 958 million hectares of tropical forests. Five territorial organizations make up the alliance: The Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN), and the Network of Indigenous and Local Populations for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa (REPALEAC).

AMAN – Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara

The Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Indonesian Archipelago is the largest indigenous peoples’ organization in the world, with millions of members in thousands of communities across Indonesia’s islands. AMAN has long been at the forefront of the struggle for indigenous peoples’ rights in Indonesia, and a leader in carrying the indigenous peoples’ rights agenda to the international level, including at the UNFCCC over the past decade. AMAN is also a leading member of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities. RFUS is currently supporting AMAN’s emergency fundraising efforts around COVID-19 and forest fires.

APIB – Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil

The Coalition of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil was founded in 2005 and has since become the country’s largest indigenous peoples’ federation, representing all of Rainforest Foundation US’s local and regional partners, like the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira, or COIAB). APIB is also a leading member of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities. RFUS is currently supporting APIB’s emergency fundraising efforts around COVID-19 and forest fires.

COICA – Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica

The Coordination of Indigenous Peoples Organizations of the Amazon Basin is the largest representative organization of its kind in the region. It is made up of elected national indigenous peoples’ federations in all nine Amazon nations. In COICA’s long history, they have been on the frontline of the struggle to advance the respect for indigenous peoples’ rights and territorial security. RFUS has worked with COICA for many years, in specific collaborations with national federations such as AIDESEP in Peru and APA in Guyana, as well as with regional initiatives such as the Amazon Emergency Fund launched in 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. COICA is also a leading member of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities.

REPALEAC – Network of Indigenous and Local Populations for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa

Network of Indigenous and Local Populations for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa, part of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC), is made up of indigenous peoples and local communities in eight Central African countries that influence the management and sustainable management of various ecosystems such as forests tropical and rangelands.

CIR – Conselho Indígena de Roraima

Indigenous Council of Roraima is the main representative indigenous organization in the northern Brazilian Amazon state of Roraima. RFUS has partnered with CIR for some 20 years providing legal, financial, and strategic support for the demarcation of Raposa Serra do Sol, and ongoing human rights advocacy and initiatives.

Hutukara Associação Yanomami

Hutukara Yanomami Association was established in 2004 to represent the Yanomami people of the northern Brazilian states of Roraima and Amazonas. RFUS worked closely with Hutukara in its early days, providing capacity strengthening for the organization as it spread its wings, as well as supporting a younger generation of leaders. We have also been active in a number of Yanomami-led campaigns and initiatives over the years.

APIB – Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil

Coalition of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil is the umbrella organization representing all indigenous peoples of Brazil. Since 2005, APIB has led indigenous peoples’ resistance to policies and programs that threaten rights and lands. RFUS partners with APIB on global advocacy, among other work, as part of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities.

APA – Amerindian Peoples Association

Amerindian Peoples Association is the leading indigenous organization in Guyana. APA has active members in over 60 indigenous villages and regional representatives across Guyana, as well as a national secretariat in Georgetown. RFUS partners with APA in their efforts to advocate for land rights and expanded titling, national policy change, and to strengthen local and regional indigenous governance institutions. 

SRDC – South Rupununi District Council

South Rupununi District Council is the representative body of the elected Chiefs (“Toshaos”) of the 21 Wapichan communities in southern Guyana. RFUS supports SRDC to acquire title to the collective Wapichan area, protecting the headwaters of Guyana’s major rivers, addressing mining threats and securing the border with Brazil.

NPDC – North Pakaraimas District Council

North Pakaraimas District Council is the representative body of the Patamona and Macushi indigenous peoples. The NPDC holds title to roughly 333,284 hectares of village land–26% of their ancestral lands. RFUS supports NPDC to map the lands outside village boundaries and to determine the best way to conserve these lands in the face of expanding mining operations and other threats.

UMDC – Upper Mazaruni District Council

Upper Mazaruni District Council  is the representative body of the Akawaio indigenous people. Communities in the Upper Mazaruni are engaged in a legal case to secure collective title for the full extent of their territory at Guyana’s High Court since 1998, while the government continues to issue mining rights to outside miners over untitled traditional lands subject to the case, without their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). RFUS has assisted the UMDC in monitoring and analysis of the extent of mining operations in the region.

MDC – Moruca District Council

Moruca District Council is the representative body of eight Lokono villages in a coastal lowland environment with extensive forest resources, mangroves and coastal wetlands. The eight titled villages cover roughly 31% of the traditional lands of the MDC.  RFUS and APA have been supporting institutional strengthening efforts, including developing rules of procedure for Village Councils and guidelines for implementing free, prior, informed consent.

ORPIO – Organización Regional de los Pueblos Indígenas del Oriente

Organization of the Indigenous Peoples of the Eastern Amazon (Organización Regional de los Pueblos Indígenas del Oriente, or ORPIO) is the indigenous peoples’ representative organization in the Amazonian department Loreto, Peru, representing  indigenous peoples and 430 communities. ORPIO engages in protecting their territories, promoting human development, and defending their rights and indigenous governance. 

ORAU – Organización Regional Aidesep Ucayali

The Regional Organization Aidesep Ucayali (Organización Regional Aidesep Ucayali, or ORAU) represents 15 indigenous peoples, 13 subnational federations. ORAU engages in promoting the economic, social, political and cultural development of the indigenous peoples that it represents.

ECA-RCA – Ejecutor del Contrato de Administración de la Reserva Comunal Amarakaeri

Executor of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve Administration Contract (Ejecutor del Contrato de Administración de la Reserva Comunal Amarakaeri, or ECA-RCA) ECA-RCA represents 10 indigenous communities along the buffer one of the of the world’s most biodiverse protected areas. ECA co-manages the communal reserve with the National Protected Areas Service of Peru (SERNANP) ensuring the conservation of biological diversity and the benefit for its associates.

Saweto-Alto Tamaya

The indigenous Asheninka community of Saweto, located in eastern Ucayali, suffered from the massacre of their leaders by illegal loggers in 2014. RFUS leads the legal representation of Saweto, while also facilitating their land titling and security. The Justice for Saweto campaign aims to ensure the Saweto issue remains visible and to help raise the necessary financial support to ensure the community and the widows remain safe. RFUS coordinates with multiple national and international governmental and non-governmental allies to support this effort.

AIDESEP – Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana

The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle is the spokesperson organization for the indigenous peoples of the Amazon in Peru, which works for the defense and respect of their collective rights. AIDESEP has 109 federations that represent 1,809 communities where more than 650,000 indigenous men and women live, grouped into 19 linguistic families.

CGTCEWP – Congreso General de Tierras Colectivas Embera y Wounaan de Panamá

The General Congress of the Embera y Wounaan Collective Lands of Panama is the representative body for the Embera and some of the Wounaan communities outside of the Embera Wounaan Comarca, and has been on the forefront of the struggle for land rights for many years.

CNPW – Congreso Nacional del Pueblo Wounaan

National Congress of the Wounaan People is the representative body of the Wounaan people inside and outside of the Comarca, with elected leaders who fight for the Wounaan at the national level. The CNPW has an associated Wounaan Foundation which is the project management arm of the Congress.

COONAPIP – Coordinadora Nacional de Pueblos Indígenas de Panamá

National Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples in Panama is the national umbrella representative organization of Panama’s indigenous peoples’ organizations founded in 1999 to lead the fight for indigenous land rights, respect for indigenous culture and other priorities.

Congreso General Ancestral Tule de Tagarkunyala

Congreso General Ancestral Tule de Tagarkunyala represents the Guna people in the communities of Paya and Pucuru, and the large territory considered the ancestral homeland of the Guna people, including the sacred mountain of Tagarkunyal. The Tagarkunyal territory is completely inside the Darien National Park, making them a key ally for the sustainable management of Central America’s largest protected area.

Geo Indigena

Geo Indigena is a newly formed civil association led by indigenous youth with a focus on providing training and capacity building for mapping, monitoring, and community natural resource management with indigenous traditional governance structures and the indigenous movement regionally. RFUS has been supporting the development and organizational launch of GeoIndigena for the past few years. GeoIndigena received legal recognition in mid-2020, and will be a key partner for RFUS in coming years.

AMPB – Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques

The Mesoamerican Alliance of People and Forests is a Central American regional organization dedicated to promoting the rights of forest-dwelling indigenous peoples and local communities. It is made up of  national organizations who control significant areas of forests in the region. RFUS has worked with AMPB over the years to train community-based territorial monitors and mappers as well as to support regional and international advocacy. AMPB is also a member of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities. RFUS is currently supporting AMPB’s emergency fundraising efforts around COVID-19 and forest fires.

Utz Che’ – Asociación de Forestería Comunitaria de Guatemala

Utz Che’ is a network of community based, indigenous and multicultural organizations, that manage forests, water sources and communal land in different territories of Guatemala, Central America. In the General Assembly of Utz Che’, the communities of Mam, Poqomam, Pocomchí, Popti’, Achí, K’iche’, K’aqchiquel, Q’eqchi’, Ch’orti’, Q’anjob’al, Xinka and Mestizo peoples come together, uniting their voices, proposals and demands to the Guatemalan State and society.

ACOFOP – Association of Forest Communities of Petén

The communal organizations that form the Association of Forest Communities of Petén protect the biodiversity and cultural heritage of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Along with conservation actions, the community forestry model allows the communities that inhabit and care for the forests to generate economic and social benefits, through the sustainable use of timber species such as mahogany and cedar, non-timber products such as xate, ramón nut and pepper, as well as the management of tourism services.

Red MOCAF – Red Mexicana de Organizaciones Campesinas Forestales

The Mexican Network of Peasant Forestry Organizations is a coalition of rural farmers and indigenous organizations, which aims to improve the living conditions of forest farmers through sustainable resource use.

FEPROAH – The Federation of Agroforestry Producers of Honduras

The Federation of Agroforestry Producers of Honduras was created in 2000 as an alternative to the administration of community forest management and business development processes. It is made up of 43 community enterprises and has more than 3,000 members. One of the federation’s main objectives is to improve the representativeness and legitimacy of economic agents linked to the forest, to develop forest governance platforms. It also promotes the recognition of rights and access to forest resources for forest-dependent people and communities, enabling the creation, development, and implementation of national strategies aimed at reducing deforestation and restoring the forest landscape.

The Naso General Council

The Naso indigenous people live in Panama and Costa Rica, currently primarily along the Teribe River in the Bocas del Toro province of Panama. The Naso number a little over 4,000 people, and against enormous odds have preserved their language, culture, and way of life. Their traditional lands cover some of the most mountainous and biodiversity-rich areas of western Panama. The Naso, one of only two indigenous groups in Panama for which the government has not recognized their ancestral lands, have been fighting since at least 1973 for legal recognition of their territory.

COIAB – Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira

The Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, founded in 1989, is the largest regional indigenous organization in Brazil. COIAB’s mission is to defend indigenous peoples’ rights to land, health, education, culture, and sustainability, aiming at their autonomy through political articulation and strengthening of indigenous organizations.


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Didier Devers
Chief of Party – USAID Guatemala

Didier has been coordinating the USAID-funded B’atz project since joining Rainforest Foundation US in April 2022. He holds a Master’s in Applied Anthropology and a Bachelor’s in Geography. Before joining the organization, Didier worked for 12 years in Central and South America on issues of transparency, legality, governance, and managing stakeholders’ processes in the environmental sector. Prior to that he worked on similar issues in Central Africa. He speaks French, Spanish, and English, and is based in Guatemala.