Rainforest Alert: Community-based solutions to rainforest destruction now scientifically proven

A young indigenous woman holds a drone controller in her hands. She looks into the sky, surrounded by rainforest.

Rainforest Alert: Community-based solutions to rainforest destruction now scientifically proven

Results of a new scientific study show that indigenous peoples using remote sensing technology can better survey their lands and reduce deforestation by half. Under Rainforest Foundation US’s community-based forest monitoring program, called Rainforest Alert, indigenous forest patrollers combine satellite imagery with foot patrols to verify evidence and equip community leaders with the information they need to take action. This cost-effective model could be scaled across the Amazon basin to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the equivalent of 21 million cars per year, at only $6/hectare.

This film explains the results of the study, the Rainforest Alert methodology, and how it could be scaled across the Amazon basin to reduce emissions from deforestation. The film was produced by Rainforest Foundation US and If Not Us, Then Who. 

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Mesoamerican Community Leaders Point the Way Toward a High-Integrity Carbon Market

The Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), in collaboration with Rainforest Foundation US and Fundación PRISMA, convened in El Salvador to shape a united vision for strengthening the integrity of carbon markets in the region. This comes at a crucial moment as governments and the private sector increasingly advocate for nature-based solutions, including carbon markets and REDD+ initiatives, which have been developed without adequate input from the communities leading forest protection efforts on the ground.

Support Rainforest Alert!

Rainforest Foundation US believes that our Rainforest Alert program can avoid nearly 4,000 square miles (1 million hectares) of deforestation over the coming decade – that’s twice the size of Delaware.

Hover over the amounts below to see how much rainforest you can help protect by donating to Rainforest Alert.

Indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon equipped with remote sensing technology can reduce deforestation, study finds

Indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon equipped with remote sensing technology can reduce deforestation, study finds

July 12, 2021

For more information, or for interviews, kindly contact:

Wanda Bautista, moc.s1719221586senru1719221586b@ats1719221586ituab1719221586w1719221586; WhatsApp/mobile: +1 302 233 5438

Communities saw a 52 percent reduction in forest loss in the study’s first year and a 21 percent drop in the second year. 

New York, NY — (12 July 2021) A landmark study shows that indigenous peoples patrolling the Amazon for deforestation with smartphones and satellite data can be a powerful force in the battle against the climate crisis.

The randomized controlled trial carried out in the Peruvian Amazon assessed the effects of indigenous forest community monitors in reducing deforestation when equipped with satellite-based alerts. 

The study found a 52% drop in deforestation the first year and 21% in the second year, compared with similar communities that did not adopt the approach. These reductions in forest loss were especially concentrated in communities facing the most immediate threats from illegal gold mining, logging, and the planting of illicit crops like the coca plants used to manufacture cocaine.

Researchers report these and other findings in a peer-reviewed study in the July 12th issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 

This study represents one site in a larger study of community monitoring of natural resources conducted in communities across six countries – Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Liberia, Peru, and Uganda. A second study in PNAS synthesizes the findings across studies, revealing that territorial monitoring reduces natural resource overuse across the board.

The findings in the Peru study are the latest amidst a flurry of reports showing that recognizing indigenous peoples’ rights to their territory is the most effective way to preserve natural tropical landscapes. 

Jacob Kopas, co-author of the study, says that  “Should our results hold up elsewhere, they would suggest that similar community-based monitoring programs implemented by indigenous peoples across the Amazon can help contribute to sustainable forest management on a larger scale.”

Technology-based monitoring and enforcement by local communities and state officials could promote rainforest conservation in order to combat the climate crisis. More than one-third of the Amazon rainforest falls within the approximately 3,344 formally acknowledged indigenous peoples’ territories. 

From 2000 to 2015, 17 percent of Amazon deforestation occurred in national protected areas or territories registered to indigenous peoples, while 83 percent occurred in parts of the Amazon that are neither under indigenous peoples’ control nor government protected.

Research indicates that the forests on indigenous peoples’ lands worldwide contain 37.7 billion tons of carbon, equivalent to 29 times of the annual emissions from all passenger vehicles in the world. Cutting down trees releases vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it absorbs and radiates heat, contributing significantly to the climate crisis. 

“Although formal recognition of indigenous peoples’ land tenure is key to protecting their lands from deforestation, it is most effective when combined with active forest management and robust community and local governance,” says Suzanne Pelletier, Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation US (RFUS), the rainforest and rights protection organization that helped facilitate the study.

Jorge Perez Rubio, the president of the regional indigenous organization, Organización Regional de los Pueblos Indígenas del Oriente (ORPIO), where the study was carried out, says that “The study provides evidence that supporting our communities with the latest technology and training can help reduce deforestation in our territories.”

“We now have quantitative evidence showing that giving deforestation data directly to forest communities works,” says Jessica Webb, Senior Manager for Global Engagement with World Resource Institute’s Global Forest Watch, a free online forest monitoring system. 

WRI worked closely with RFUS and ORPIO to design the community-based forest monitoring methodology, helping to plan the study, and analyze the resultant data. 

WRI’s Global Forest Watch tools were vital to the model. When satellite images record changes in the forest cover, an algorithm developed by the University of Maryland’s GLAD (Global Land Analysis and Discovery) lab detects the changes and issues deforestation alerts. The alerts are widely available through the Global Forest Watch online platform and its Forest Watcher mobile app. 

Before the model was deployed, deforestation alerts rarely filtered down to remote rainforest communities, which lack reliable access to the internet. Villagers were unaware that invaders were clearing community land and they were powerless to stop them.

“What good does this information do if it’s only seen by a bunch of academics and people in glass buildings?” says Tom Bewick, Peru country director for RFUS, who was a principal architect of the study methodology and implementation. “The whole point is to put the deforestation information into the hands of those most affected by its consequences and who can take action to stop it.”

In consultation with ORPIO, the principal investigators identified 76 villages in the northern district of Loreto to take part in the study. From this sample, 39 communities were randomly assigned to participate in the monitoring program. Three opted out before the study began. Each community that was assigned to the monitoring treatment identified and trained three representatives to conduct monthly monitoring patrols to verify reports of deforestation. Meanwhile, 37 communities were assigned as the control group and retained their existing forest management practices.

Over the course of the study, indigenous technology experts in a regional data hub regularly gathered reports of suspected deforestation, including satellite photos and GPS information. Once a month, couriers navigated the Amazon river and its tributaries to deliver USB drives with the information to the remote villages. Upon arrival in the village, the monitors downloaded this information onto specialized smartphone apps, which they then used to guide their patrols to the locations of the forest disturbances. 

In cases where the monitors identified unauthorized deforestation — typically conducted by outsiders harvesting timber or clearing land for farming, gold mining, or coca cultivation — they presented the evidence to a general assembly of community members for consideration. 

In each case, the community would collectively decide upon the course of action. If drug traffickers were involved, communities may have decided to present their evidence to law enforcement authorities. In less risky circumstances, community members could intervene directly by declaring their rights and driving offenders off their land.

“Over the next decade, if nothing changes, indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin are projected to lose 4.4 million hectares of rainforest, mostly to outsiders who encroach on their territories to cut down trees,” says Cameron Ellis, senior geographer for Rainforest Foundation US. 

The study suggests that community monitoring with remote-sensing deforestation alerts represent one promising intervention to protect these territories.

“But if the community-based forest monitoring methodology could be widely adopted and local governance strengthened, forest loss in the Amazon could be reduced by as much as 20 percent across all indigenous peoples’ lands. If the approach were targeted to regions with high deforestation rates, forest loss in those areas could be cut by more than half,” says Ellis.

Using its own conservative calculations, and based on comparable projected outcomes, Rainforest Foundation US estimates that community-based forest monitoring in Brazil could save 415,000 of the 2.2 million hectares of rainforest in indigenous peoples’ territories likely to be lost over the next decade. In Peru, 186,000 of 500,000 hectares of at-risk rainforests controlled by indigenous peoples could be saved.

Over the course of the two-year study, the treatment communities prevented the destruction of an estimated 456 hectares of rainforest, avoiding the release of over 234,000 tons of CO2 emissions at a cost of about $5/ton. Rainforest Foundation US implemented the study’s community monitoring program at a cost of about $1/acre per year. 

“The community monitoring program spearheaded by ORPIO and Rainforest Foundation US in Peru has vast implications for the survival of indigenous-managed forests across the Amazon,” says Gregorio Mirabal, general coordinator of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), the umbrella of indigenous peoples’ representative organizations in the Amazon’s nine countries. “Our network is ready to partner with Rainforest Foundation US to apply this technology-enabled model to our community forest protection initiatives basin-wide.”

The methodology for preventing deforestation could be scaled up quickly and at nominal cost. Satellite data are widely and freely available from WRI’s Global Forest Watch and other sources. 

Bewick added that the project in the Peruvian Amazon province of Loreto is just the start. “Loreto represents everywhere,” he says. “There’s a solution here, it’s cost effective, and it works. The findings make a strong case to increase investment to scale the model. It would be good for the future: not only for Peru, but for our planet.”


Rainforest Foundation US was founded 30 years ago to promote the rights of indigenous peoples living in the rainforest and to support them and other forest communities in their effort to protect and defend their territories. rainforestfoundation.org

World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization that works with governments, businesses and civil society partners to develop practical solutions to today’s pressing environmental and human development challenges. WRI currently has over 1,400 staff working in 12 offices, spanning Asia, Africa, Europe, the United States and Latin America. It focuses on urgent challenges in seven core areas: Food, Forests, Water, the Ocean, Cities, Energy and Climate. More information at www.wri.org.

ORPIO is an indigenous organization that works in 15 river basins in the Peruvian Amazon, among them: Putumayo, Napo, Tigre, Corrientes, Marañón, Yaquerana, Bajo Amazonas, and Ucayali. Among its objectives is the protection of indigenous peoples’ territories, promoting human development, defending rights, and strengthening indigenous governance. It represents 15 indigenous peoples and 21 federations. http://www.orpio.org.pe/

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Mesoamerican Community Leaders Point the Way Toward a High-Integrity Carbon Market

The Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), in collaboration with Rainforest Foundation US and Fundación PRISMA, convened in El Salvador to shape a united vision for strengthening the integrity of carbon markets in the region. This comes at a crucial moment as governments and the private sector increasingly advocate for nature-based solutions, including carbon markets and REDD+ initiatives, which have been developed without adequate input from the communities leading forest protection efforts on the ground.

Support Rainforest Alert!

Rainforest Foundation US believes that our Rainforest Alert program can avoid nearly 4,000 square miles (1 million hectares) of deforestation over the coming decade – that’s twice the size of Delaware.

Hover over the amounts below to see how much rainforest you can help protect by donating to Rainforest Alert.

A Challenge in the Peruvian Amazon: To Stop Spreading COVID, Spread COVID Information Instead

A Challenge in the Peruvian Amazon: To Stop Spreading COVID, Spread COVID Information Instead

On the heels of a recent survey of indigenous communities in Peru revealing widespread unfamiliarity with COVID-19 and widespread hesitancy about the vaccine, Rainforest Foundation US (RFUS) has teamed up with representative indigenous partner organizations on a multilingual COVID-19 awareness campaign.

The campaign, which will be run in eight indigenous languages as well as Spanish, will consist of broadcasts, podcasts, and infographic comics, and will be distributed throughout 123 rainforest-dense departments of Loreto and Ucayali.

The campaign is the latest iteration of RFUS’s COVID relief effort in Peru, which began in early 2020, and was launched with the help of the Center for Information and Education about the Prevention of Drug Abuse (CEDRO) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

If our recent survey results are an indicator, the campaign is sorely needed.

Conducted last month in 40 indigenous communities in the aforementioned departments, the survey shows how unaware of COVID-19 many in these communities remain. In the starkest of terms: A large majority of the indigenous people we surveyed can’t identify the virus’s symptoms, don’t know how to curb its spread, and don’t trust the vaccine.

The lack of information isn’t due to indigenous obstinance, but rather to a failure of the Peruvian government’s public information priorities, says Katya Zevallos of the Indigenous People’s Organization of the Eastern Amazon (ORPIO), one of our partner organizations on the campaign.

“The government of Peru has spent a lot of money to provide people with information about COVID-19. But only one sector of the population: the ones that have internet, smartphones, cell phone service,” Zevallos says.

Too often, indigenous communities have been left in the dark. And looking at Peru’s pandemic numbers, that informational failure could lead to disaster imminently.

How Peru’s Amazonian Communities Are Responding to COVID-19

Because of the lack of information, there’s a lack of basic COVID safety measures amongst indigenous peoples that over the last year have become commonplace elsewhere. Of our survey respondents, 67.5% didn’t know that the virus spreads more easily indoors. More than half (54.3%) share food and drink receptacles when meeting friends outside the household. More than half (50.4%) don’t wear masks outside the household. Recognition of COVID symptoms is likewise perilously low, e.g. only 9.3% and 4.1% of respondents knew that those infected with COVID-19 might lose their sense of taste and sense of smell, respectively.

Meanwhile, the pandemic in Peru has worsened. Fueled by the P.1 variant first discovered in Brazil, a deadly second wave has kept case numbers high, while vaccine distribution crawls. As of press time, Peru’s fully vaccinated population was only 2.2%—magnitudes behind the United States and Europe. For Peru’s indigenous Amazon population—many of whom are far removed from the health care available in cities—the potential for catastrophe is undeniable.

The Ministry of Health recently announced plans to send tens of thousands of AstraZeneca doses to indigenous Amazonian communities. But our survey suggests that vaccine hesitancy could blunt the effectiveness of that aide. Of the community members surveyed, 66.2% said they did not want to receive the vaccine.

Gregorio Mirabal, Coordinator of the Congress of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA), an umbrella organization of indigenous rights in the Amazon Basin, spoke impassionedly about the lack of governmental outreach at a press conference last Tuesday on the survey results.

“We’re asking for a plan about prevention and vaccination,” Mirabal said.“Where is the plan? Where’s the dialogue? Where’s the differentiated approach to indigenous communities?”  

One silver lining in the survey was that much of the respondents’ vaccine resistance is “soft”: that is to say, of the 66.2% who didn’t want the vaccine, only 32% indicated that their mind was made up. Our hope is that this campaign will raise safety measures and bring vaccine hesitancy down, protecting communities from more serious outbreaks.

“Clean hands against COVID-19” is one of several infographics produced by ORPIO and RFUS for use in the campaign.

How the COVID Information Campaign Will Work

Our campaign for greater COVID-19 awareness will be done in partnership with the indigenous-led organizations ORPIO and the Regional Organization of AIDESEP in Ucayali (ORAU). Slated to roll out in early June, it’ll feature a series of radio spots, podcasts, and twelve comic-style infographics. The graphics will be blown up onto banners for display in public spaces, and compiled into a calendar: one infographic per month.

The calendars are an attempt to meet indigenous communities where their interests are, explains RFUS’s Country Director for Peru, Tom Bewick, who adds that “In most indigenous houses, there’s not that much on the wall—but you almost always see that calendar.”

The messages contained therein will be likewise directly reflective of survey results. In one infographic, readers will be dissuaded from self-medicating. With Peru’s healthcare system cumbersome, expensive, and oftentimes inaccessibly far away from indigenous communities, some indigenous peoples are tempted by unproven over-the-counter solutions that friends and neighbors have utilized. As has happened elsewhere in the world, scientifically unsound solutions spread rampantly, word-of-mouth, boosted by the mirage of proof that comes from the high variability in COVID-19’s course-of-illness: I took it and I got better, so you should take it too.

The entire campaign aspires to hone in on both indigenous preferences and their knowledge gaps while dispensing public health information. To better do that, we’re also working with indigenous health promoters and other indigenous leaders, who will serve as valuable interlocutors to communities historically wary of outsiders.

In addition to Spanish, the campaign messaging is being translated into Kichwa, Ticuna, Yagua, Shipibo-conibo, Ashaninka, Bora bora, Muri-muinani, and Maijuna. When asked about the need for translating into indigenous languages, given the widespread use of Spanish throughout the nation, Zevallos says it speaks more to the difficulty of the virus than the difficulty of Spanish.

“[Many indigenous people] understand Spanish, but not fluently. Not with difficult concepts. Not with something that nobody in the world understands anyway: something like COVID-19.”

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

Amerindian Peoples Association Launches Land Tenure Assessment and Geo-Database

Title page of the Amerindian Peoples Association upcoming report

Amerindian Peoples Association Launches Land Tenure Assessment and Geo-Database

The Amerindian Peoples Association presents its findings on the situation of indigenous land tenure and introduces a new tool that maps indigenous lands in Guyana

After 8 years of participatory research on indigenous peoples’ land tenure in Guyana, the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) is launching the latest edition of “Our Land, Our Life:  A Participatory Assessment of the Land Tenure Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Guyana”. The organization will also introduce a new geographic database–the first of its kind–that hosts spatial data pertaining to all indigenous peoples’ lands in Guyana. Rainforest Foundation US (RFUS) and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) supported the assessments and establishment of the database.

The Report

Click on the thumbnail to view the report

Between 2012 and 2020, APA – in collaboration with RFUS and FPP – conducted land tenure assessments across Guyana’s Regions 1, 2, 7, 8, and 9. The findings are summarized in the newly released report “Our Land, Our Life”. 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
  • Map problems
  • Land conflicts
  • Lack of clarity of land titles

Researchers engaged with village and regional leaders – including elders, women, and youth – to develop recommendations for Guyana’s government to improve indigenous peoples’ tenure security. Those recommendations include:

  • Revise the Amerindian Act to bring it in line with international standards for protection of indigenous peoples’ rights
  • Improve the land titling process to better protect indigenous land rights
  • Address land conflicts by respecting the right to effective participation and free, prior, and informed consent
  • Correct mapping errors

The Database

The geographic database consolidates observations taken over APA’s 20-year history in the field working with indigenous communities and district councils. The data was gathered through field work, including GPS surveys and interviews. The database is 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 Conservation 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.

Click on the thumbnails to view past land tenure assessments

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

A Tragedy Foretold: COVID-19 Infections Spike in Yanomami Territory

A Tragedy Foretold: COVID-19 Infections Spike in Yanomami Territory

November 19, 2020


  • There has been an increase in the number of cases by more than 250% in the last three months in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory.
  • Less than 4.7% of the total population has been tested 
  • 10,000 Yanomami and Ye’kwana may have been exposed to the virus; more than a third of the population. 
  • Timeline shows sequence of abuses against the Yanomami and Ye’kwana


Roraima State, Brazil – “Inside, we’re not doing well. We are all sick. Our forest got sick” – the testimony of a Yanomami person from the Kayanau region, in Roraima, Brazil, speaking of a disaster foretold.

Almost eight months after the first COVID-19 death among the Yanomami people, the health situation in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory (YIT) is out of control. According to the new report “Xawara: tracing the deadly path of COVID-19 and government negligence in the Yanomami Territory”, launched this Thursday, November 19th and put together by the Pro-Yanomami and Ye’kwana Network (Pro-YY Network) and the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum, the number of confirmed cases in the territory jumped from 335 to 1,202 between August and October — an increase of more than 250% cases per month. According to monitoring conducted by the Pro-YY Network, at the end of October there were 23 suspected and confirmed deaths from COVID-19 among the Yanomami people. 

COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in 23 of the 37 regions of the YIT, located between the states of Roraima and Amazonas and home to around 26,700 indigenous people, including isolated groups, who are even more vulnerable to disease. 

The report demonstrates that 10,000 people, or more than a third of the total population, may have already been exposed to the virus. Since June, the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum has called for the removal of the thousands of illegal gold miners who work in the territory and are vectors of the disease. The new report shows that their initial fears were valid: illegal mining operations have been a clear source of COVID-19 infections in the territory. 

The #MinersOutCovidOut campaign started by the Yanomami and Ye’kwana peoples, which has support from Brazilian and international allies, has gathered over 410,000 signatures in support of the indigenous peoples’ struggle.

The release of these new numbers represents the latest chapter in a story of historic proportions, suggesting that the government of Brazil has allowed and at times encouraged activities that have exposed the Yanomami and Ye’kwana peoples to the ravages of a deadly disease, while crippling their ability to protect their ancestral lands from illegal gold miners that have stripped the forests and poisoned the rivers of the northern Amazon.

“Data from the Ministry of Health indicate that there are 11 regions of the TIY where less than 10 tests were performed by DSEI-Y [Yanomami Health District] and three others where no tests were performed, that is, in more than a third of the regions there is very little information on the arrival of COVID-19, reinforcing claims by Indigenous people that in reality the number of people infected could be much higher. This information also reveals that, through mid-September, 70.5% of the tests performed by the Yanomami Health District were positive. In the region of Demini, for example, one of the most tested in the territory, over 90% of the population was infected with COVID-19. The number of tests conducted by the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health (SESAI) up to October 23 throughout the TIY is insignificant: 1,270 tests were positive, negative or discarded. In other words, less than 4.7% of the total population was tested”, according to the report. 

For Maurício Ye’kwana, a director of the Hutukara Yanomami Association and spokesman for the campaign, the report is an instrument that sheds light on the government’s neglect in the YIT during the pandemic. He says that the investigation represents an important step “not only for the Yanomami and Ye’kwana, but for all Indigenous peoples who protect our Mother Earth and keep the forest standing” to be able to show government authorities the strength and unity of the Indigenous struggle in Brazil. “We have partners who support our struggle. We ask for urgent removal of the invaders from our land,” he said.

“We want to deliver this document to the Brazilian authorities. It’s an instrument to denounce the problems with the invasion of miners, the contamination of the environment including our rivers, and contamination from diseases, like this xawara [epidemic], which has been killing a lot of people”, added Dário Kopenawa Yanomami, Vice President of Hutukara. 

Timeline of abuses 

In addition to denouncing the current lack of control over the pandemic in the YIT, the report presents in detail how it has advanced across the largest indigenous land in Brazil thanks to government negligence. One of the main excerpts of the document is a timeline of events that illustrate the neglect and the sequence of abuses against the Yanomami and Ye’kwana throughout this period. 

One of the most dramatic episodes – which sparked outrage on social media in June – was the disappearance, for almost a month, of three children who died with suspected COVID-19. The babies were buried in a cemetery in the capital Boa Vista (RR) without the knowledge of their parents or representatives of the Yanomami people. In their culture, burying the dead is unacceptable. Despite the revolt and protests, the remains of the babies remain buried in the capital of Roraima, thousands of kilometers away from their communities. 

In July, a bit of government theater marked the advance of the pandemic in the YIT, and is detailed in the report. Three months after the first death of a 15-year old Yanomami boy from COVID-19, the federal government took 16,000 chloroquine tablets to health posts in the territory on an Army-led mission, and gave another 33,000 tablets to the DSEI-Y. The authorities argued that the tablets were for treating malaria, not COVID-19, as previously stated by SESAI. The conflicting versions about the purpose of the massive distribution of chloroquine also showed the explosion of malaria in the territory, which had already been denounced by indigenous leaders as a direct impact of the gold mining invasion.

The new report also features reports from the Yanomami and Ye’kwana on the advance of COVID-19 in the territory. The testimonies narrate how the pandemic progressed, mainly due to gold mining. “Inside, we’re not doing well. We are all sick. Our forest got sick. That’s the miner’s path, because many planes land there. When a plane arrives, many people get off it, and as many planes are coming, today this disease has arrived! It’s a strong disease!” said a Yanomami woman from Kayanau, in July.  Kayanau is the second largest illegal mining area in the territory. 

Francisco Yanomami, from the Marauiá region, also warned about the lack of tests: “We weren’t supposed to be dying of this, because of a strong disease, you know. […] Now it’s happening, COVID-19 symptoms are increasing, it’s increasing. What can we do? How do we know if it’s really COVID-19? How can we find out if it’s from COVID-19 that we’re dying? We have to know which disease is killing us. If we don’t have this test, we have no way of finding out if this disease is killing us!”

The report also tells how the Yanomami Indigenous Health Center (CASAI-Y) in Boa Vista became the main contamination hub for COVID-19 among indigenous people in the first months of the pandemic. “We are not here fighting for nothing! You whites, who are inside the District, who work for health, because you have worsened the situation, you made us very sad! (…) Why are you only doing bad things for us?”, asked Gerson Blane, leader of Marakana/Toototopi at the time. 

Finally, the report includes articles signed by experts: on the disrespect for Yanomami funerary rituals and culture, by the French anthropologist Bruce Albert; an x-ray of healthcare on YIT, by public health doctor Paulo Basta, from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation; and on the responsibility of the Brazilian State for the tragedy, by ISA lawyers Juliana Batista and Luiz Henrique Pecora. 

Working side by side with the Yanomami since 1975, Bruce Albert finishes his analysis by drawing a parallel between the desecration of the Yanomami dead by COVID-19 and political disappearances during the Brazilian dictatorship – both expressions of “collective amnesia” and social erasure. And that has endured today. “In fact, taking possession of the dead of others to erase them from collective memory and denying the grieving of their family members has always been the mark of a supreme stage of barbarism based on the contempt and denial of the Other, ethnic and/or political.”



The #MinersOutCovidOut campaign is an initiative of the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum and the Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY), Wanasseduume Ye’kwana Association (SEDUUME), Yanomami Kumirayoma Womens Association (AMYK), Texoli Ninam State Association Roraima (TANER), Yanomami Association of Rio Cauaburis and Affluents (AYRCA), Kurikama Yanomami Association (AKY) and Hwenama Association of Yanomami Peoples of Roraima (HAPYR). The campaign has support from the Coalition of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), Amazon Watch, Survival International, Greenpeace Brasil, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Amnesty International, Amazon Cooperation Network (RCA), Igarapé Institute, Rainforest Foundation US and Rainforest Foundation Norway.

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

Video: The Shaman’s Message

Video: The Shaman’s Message

Yanomami shamans are warriors of the spirit world. They connect the visible and invisible worlds, acting as shields against the evil powers emanating from both humans and non-human beings that threaten the lives of their communities. Shamans dedicate themselves to taming the entities and forces that move the universe. They hold up the sky.

The most well-known Yanomami shaman and leader, Davi Kopenawa, is the author of the book “The Falling Sky – words of a Yanomami shaman” (Harvard University Press, 2013) with French anthropologist Bruce Albert. Inspired by his words and teaching, Ye’kwana Leadership Forum produced the film “The Shaman’s Message”, to bring the #MinersOutCovidOut campaign to the world.

The campaign calls for the immediate removal of illegal miners who are active in the Yanomami Territory, destroying the forest and rivers, bringing violence and now COVID-19 with them into the communities.

Listen to the shaman’s message. Help the Yanomami and other indigenous peoples hold up the sky. They protect the forest, biodiversity and climate stability. Without them, without the Amazon, and without Earth’s ecosystems protected, new pandemics will emerge, the climate crisis will deepen, and humanity will disappear. We’re already seeing the collapse happen in many parts of the world. What are we waiting for to finally hear the message of indigenous peoples? They won’t be able to hold up the sky – and postpone the end of the world – for much longer without our help.

Sign the petition: https://MinersOutCovidOut.org

Credits for “The Shaman’s Message”

A production of the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum and the #MinersOutCovidOut Campaign

Concept: Bruno Weis & O.R.C.A.

Script & Art Direction: O.R.C.A.

Production: Mini Estudio

Director: Rodrigo Pimenta

Editing: Gustavo Ribeiro

Graphics: Pedro Santos

Image research: Isabela Mota

Original Soundtrack: Beto

Villares Narrated by: Dário Vitório Kopenawa

Music Production: Beto Villares & Erico Theobaldo Sound

Effects: Fil Pinheiro

Cello: Rafael Cesario

Mixing: Beto Villares

Executive production: Paula Tesser

Supervised by: Davi Kopenawa & Dário Vitório Kopenawa

Support: Instituto Socioambiental, Amazon Watch, Greenpeace Brasil, Rainforest Foundation US & Rainforest Foundation Norway

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

International Statement of Solidarity with Peruvian Indigenous Peoples During the Political Crisis

International Statement of Solidarity with Peruvian Indigenous Peoples During the Political Crisis

The following statement was prepared by Rainforest Foundation US and a coalition of nonprofits in response to the political turmoil in Peru

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The undersigned organizations, allies of the Peruvian Indigenous movement for decades, previously concerned about the COVID19 situation in the Peruvian Amazon and today alerted to the political situation in Peru, respectfully address public opinion and Peruvian authorities to state the following:

(1) We are concerned with the situation of political instability in Peru. Within a short time the Government has named three Presidents and has elected two parliaments. All of this in the midst of a global pandemic that has meant enormous human and material costs. Peru is one of the countries most negatively affected by COVID19 which faces great challenges in the immediate future.

(2) In this situation, Indigenous Peoples are one of the most affected sectors and the least attended to. Through much advocacy work and protests, by developing their own strategies for defense and intercultural health, Indigenous Peoples are facing the pandemic with very little support from the State.

(3) The Parliament’s recent decision to impeach President Vizcarra (six months out from
the upcoming general elections that are being convened) was justified by accusations of corruption during his term as a Regional Governor. These are being analyzed by the Attorney General of the Nation. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has questioned the legitimacy and constitutionality of this parliamentary decision and the Peruvian Constitutional Tribunal has yet to clarify the constitutional foundation of the parliamentary accusation of “permanent moral incapacity”. Street protests have not stopped since Monday with many citizens denying the legitimacy of the government of Manuel Merino. Diverse high-level public functionaries have resigned in protest against the process being carried out by the parliament.

(4) In this context, we would underscore the statement of AIDESEP and the Wampis Territorial Government, indicating the illegitimacy of the current government and openly denouncing the Prime Minister who was just named, Antero Flores Araoz, who has characterized his long political history with many authoritarian and racists statements, and for vilifying Peru’s Indigenous Peoples whom he has publicly referred to as “llamas and vicuñas”. As an ex-minister, his legacy is also stained for having been part of the Cabinet that generated the “Bagua” massacre in 2009.

Given all this, we:

– Express our solidarity with the protests of all Peruvian citizens and in particular the expressions of rejection as manifested by Indigenous Peoples. We demand respect for the human rights of all citizens and that Police forces should not exercise indiscriminate repression, as has been seen in recent days.

– We call on Mr. Manuel Merino, who has been acting as president since November 10, and on the Peruvian Congress that created this situation, to listen to the voice of the Peruvian people and put aside their short term political interests, by correcting the decisions made. A constitutional solution which respects the institutions and guarantees free and fair elections as soon as possible is urgent.

– We respectfully suggest that the politicians that are put in charge of the work of redirecting this institutional crisis should be those who can generate a consensus and who understand that Peru is a diverse country, including rural and urban areas, Andean and Amazonian regions, mestizos and Indigenous Peoples.

No more repression! No more Baguazos! No more structural racism in Peru!

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Video: Reforestation Alert

Video: Reforestation Alert

Reforestation Alert is a video about the community of Buen Jardín de Callaru in the Peruvian Amazon that came together to fight illegal deforestation in their territory and restore what had been destroyed by illegal loggers and coca-growers. The film was produced by Rainforest Foundation US in partnership with the community of Buen Jardín de Callaru, the Organization of the Indigenous People of the Eastern Amazon (Organización Regional de los Pueblos Indígenas del Oriente, or ORPIO) and If Not Us, Then Who.

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Rainforest Foundation US believes that our Rainforest Alert program can avoid nearly 4,000 square miles (1 million hectares) of deforestation over the coming decade – that’s twice the size of Delaware.

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Financials & Transparency

Rainforest Foundation US Financials & Transparency

85% of Rainforest Foundation US’s funds go directly to our programs. Browse all of Rainforest Foundation US’s financial, tax, and grant documents, and our annual reports.

How RFUS Uses Funds

*Figures according to Rainforest Foundation US’s 2022 Audited Financial Statement.

All online donations support Rainforest Foundation US’s work to protect the rainforests of Central and South America and will be allocated to the area of greatest need.

Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law and are processed in US dollars. Rainforest Foundation is a US nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization (tax identification number 95-1622945) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

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In response to COVID-19, four indigenous leaders prepare bags of food and medical supplies to distribute to communities

Rainforest Foundation Response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis is disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations and indigenous communities are no exception. 

Rainforest Foundation US (RFUS) recognized early on that the needs and responses to the crisis would change over time, which is why we implemented an array of short- and long-term interventions. 

These responses leverage existing relationships, networks and tools, while also seeking new collaboration and investments from a variety of organizations, including governments, foundations, other non-profits, and on-the-ground partners. 

RFUS is both a forest protection and a human rights organization. As such, we take our role in protecting the lives of indigenous peoples just as seriously as our role in supporting them to protect forests. 

This crisis is personal. Our partners are family.

How the COVID-19 Crisis is Affecting Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous communities are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. While there is no evidence to suggest that indigenous peoples’ immune systems are more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus than other populations (as has been the case with many introduced diseases in the past) impoverished community members often suffer from chronic health conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease that can increase the risk of extreme illness and death from the virus. Meanwhile, indigenous peoples’ communal lifestyles, remote locations, and the lack of health care services mean that outbreaks in indigenous communities or often pervasive and difficult to contain. Indigenous elders – key to a community’s social fabric and holders of vast knowledge about rainforest land and life – are especially at risk. Already a number of elder members of indigenous communities in the Amazon have died from coronavirus simply for lack of a five dollar oxygen tank or because they could not make it to a hospital in time.

How Rainforest Foundation US is Tackling the COVID-19 Crisis

From the moment the pandemic hit Latin America, in early 2020, RFUS has been working around the clock to provide communities with four primary types of assistance:

Information and Communication

Indigenous organizations across the Amazon (and elsewhere) immediately recommended that communities go into voluntary self-isolation. 

A lack of appropriate information compelled RFUS to work with partners on the ground to produce posters, radio spots, and videos in indigenous languages and share them with communities to inform them of the seriousness of the pandemic and key prevention measures.

Support provided through November 2020:  US$ 19,027

Humanitarian Support

Many communities are safest if they stay in place, which means that they must minimize exposure to visitors and forgo travel to outbreak areas. Such measures make it difficult for communities to sell goods and access some basic necessities, such as the fuel, cooking oil, and salt that they have come to rely on. In order to support their self-isolation, our partners have initiated campaigns to raise funds and supplies.

Support provided through November 2020:  US$ 77,760

Medical Supplies and Protective Equipment

Indigenous organizations are actively coordinating with  the government to ensure it fulfills its obligation to provide medical supplies and equipment, PPEs, and disinfection kits to all, especially leaders, monitors staffing barriers, and indigenous health workers.  Now that the disease is spreading more widely, these supplies have become all the more important.

Support provided through November 2020: US$ 171,606

Supporting Sustainable Economic Activities

Remote indigenous communities, most of whom live in extreme poverty, are particularly vulnerable to the short- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19. Quarantine measures and the paralysis of global trade and travel have made a bad situation worse. Therefore, RFUS and indigenous organizations are developing strategies and projects that will allow these communities to safely generate income.

Support provided through November 2020:  US$ 11,000

The COVID-19 crisis is a challenge to leaders around the world. This is especially true for indigenous organizations and leaders operating in historically neglected areas that lack basic public services. But the pandemic is also an opportunity to strengthen  local, regional and national indigenous governance systems. This strengthening is very much at the core of our work across tropical Latin America. Indigenous organizations in Peru, Brazil, Guyana and Panama are quickly adapting and stepping up to address the unique demands that the global pandemic has created as it steadily seeps into the most distant corners of the forest.

Leveraging Technology for COVID-19 Relief

Rainforest Foundation US is leveraging its extensive network of tech-enabled indigenous partners, including hundreds of remote field monitors who, under normal circumstances, are working to detect and stop illegal deforestation. These networks and individuals are now adapting their skills and tools to capture critical health information in communities. Indigenous data managers  are now compiling valuable health care information and keeping state agencies abreast of new outbreaks. Meanwhile, indigenous leaders and administrators – accustomed to pursuing criminal cases and working the levers of regional governments to stop illegal deforestation – are using their skills, connections, and political influence to improve government and international responses to COVID-19 and ongoing deforestation threats.

Deforestation During Coronavirus

 Illegal loggers and miners are not staying home and observing social distance, which is why we are also addressing the numerous secondary effects of the virus, such as increased logging, mining and illegal border crossings that threaten indigenous livelihoods every bit as much as the virus itself. 

With inspections and other activities on hold due to the pandemic, illegal actors are exploiting a dramatic drop in official inspections and other activities on hold due to the pandemic. In Brazil, this drop in enforcement has been compounded by a weakening of environmental regulations that predates the pandemic. Meanwhile, illegal deforestation and mining is increasing exponentially during this crisis, posing new levels of public health and environmental threat to indigenous territories.

Partner Initiatives

In addition to coordinating local responses, Rainforest Foundation US, our allies and partners are spearheading several large initiatives to scale coronavirus responses across the region:

  1. Amazon Emergency Fund – A collaboration between Rainforest Foundation US, Amazon Watch, COICA and dozens of other allies and partners to raise and distribute funding directly to indigenous communities impacted by the coronavirus.
  2. SOS Rainforest Live – A collaboration between the three Rainforest Foundations (US, UK and Norway) to work with artists, scientists and indigenous leaders to secure direct funding for indigenous groups impacted by the coronavirus.
  3. COVID-19 response in Peru – A new partnership among USAID, CEDRO Peru, and Rainforest Foundation US, which will regularly deliver health information and related messages to vulnerable indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon Departments of Loreto and Ucayali. At the same time, this project will engage existing RFUS networks to leverage instant data from communities as they report the impacts of the  COVID-19 crisis to regional organizations and the government, generating support and visibility. This is a two-year program that coordinates support among the  Peruvian government, indigenous organizations, and other allies to prevent, mitigate and respond to immediate needs.
  4. Remote monitoring and advocacy – An effort by Rainforest Foundation US and partners in Peru, Guyana, Brazil and Central America to conduct expanded monitoring of illegal activity in indigenous territories – using a combination of near-real-time satellite data, high resolution imagery and on-the-ground networks – while travel to many of these areas is restricted due to coronavirus.
  5. Fora Garimpo, Fora Covid (Miners Out, COVID Out) Campaign – A major campaign spearheaded by Yanomami organizations to remove the roughly 20,000 illegal miners operating in the Yanomami Territory in northern Brazil. COVID-19 has been spreading in communities closest to illegal mining areas, with potentially devastating results. RFUS is collaborating on the campaign together with partners and allies Hutukara Yanomami Association, Instituto Socioambiental, Survival International, Amazon Watch and many others. Sign the petition here: www.minersoutcovidout.org/
  6. Supporting economic sustainability in the COVID-19 crisis: RFUS is helping communities develop and implement sustainable revenue generating activities within the parameters of health protocols, such as reforestation with income generating species and securing community level payments for their forest protection using blockchain technology. 

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Amazon Emergency Fund Scales Up

Amazon Emergency Fund Scales Up

The Amazon Emergency Fund (AEF) was launched in May to respond to the growing COVID-19 crisis in the Amazon, where government inaction has meant skyrocketing numbers of illnesses and deaths among indigenous communities. The disease continues to spread across rivers and forests, driven in large part by miners and loggers taking advantage of the pandemic to carry out illegal activities. The continued expansion of extractive industries is also a factor in the propagation of the virus, which has already resulted in more than a half million confirmed infections and 17,500 deaths across the Amazon Basin. Government responses to date have been inadequate. And despite large infusions of cash from the donor community, little government aid is reaching most remote indigenous territories where communities are suffering from the disease outbreak, economic hardship from the shutdown, and a crippled public health infrastructure.

The Solution: What AEF and indigenous partners are doing

Faced with this situation, indigenous organizations in the region represented by the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) decided to take matters into their own hands. Specifically, they’ve stepped up to raise funds, purchase and deliver food and medical aid, and are collaborating with a wide range of civil society partners to reach communities in need. The AEF successfully deployed it’s first round of grants, more than a quarter million dollars to COICA organizations in nine countries, and is actively working to disburse a second round of funding.

In order to support COICA and other territorial communities, some two dozen NGOs established the Founding Solidarity Circle, which to date has channeled more than a million dollars directly to communities on the ground. The Founding Solidarity Circle, which includes Rainforest Foundation US as well as Amazon Watch, Avaaz and a host of others, have specifically channeled financial support to indigenous partners to deliver food, personal protective equipment, health supplies, support for logistics, transport and communications, as well as tools and seeds necessary to confront the growing food insecurity in the region.

French Government Brings Scale to the AEF

In July, the AEF crossed a new milestone with a critical $2 million donation from the French Government that takes it over halfway towards the $5m goal set in May.  This means a new round of funding will reach a much wider set of communities and may also allow for greater coordination and synergy for things like purchasing of medical supplies, PPE and covid19 test kits, or replication of larger scale efforts supported by Avaaz and Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples Articulation (APIB) to build field hospitals in Brazil. As the scope and duration of the pandemic expands, and the short- and medium-term economic impacts deepen, there is growing awareness that humanitarian responses will be needed over longer periods of time, heightening the need to increase resource mobilization and build medium- and long-term capacity for both disaster response and economic reactivation. The AEF is seeking to strengthen its own capacity as a vehicle for COICA and partners to play a leadership role in meeting this challenge.

For more information or to get in touch, please visit amazonemergencyfund.org or contact moc.l1719221586iamg@1719221586dnufy1719221586cnegr1719221586emeno1719221586zama1719221586

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

Murder of Two Yanomami by Illegal Miners Heightens Fears of Renewed Cycle of Violence in the Brazilian Amazon

Yanomami People

Murder of Two Yanomami by Illegal Miners Heightens Fears of Renewed Cycle of Violence in the Brazilian Amazon

Yanomami People
Photo by Victor Morayama/ISA

June 30, 2020

Maryka Paquette: gro.y1719221586nffr@1719221586etteu1719221586qapm1719221586 or +1 (619) 517-4126
Camila Rossi: gro.h1719221586ctawn1719221586ozama1719221586@isso1719221586rc1719221586 or +55 11 98152 8476
Instituto Socioambiental (ISA): gro.l1719221586atnei1719221586bmaoi1719221586cos@a1719221586rreta1719221586niram1719221586
Survival International: gro.l1719221586anoit1719221586anret1719221586nilav1719221586ivrus1719221586@sser1719221586p1719221586 or +44 (0) 7841 029 289

The Indigenous Hutukara Yanomami Association demands a rigorous investigation of the murders and reinforces the need for the Brazilian government to immediately expel more than 20,000 miners illegally operating on Yanomami land.

Roraima, Brazil – In a statement denouncing the murder of two Yanomami people by armed illegal gold miners on protected Indigenous territory, the Hutukara Yanomami Association raised fears that land invaders are driving a disastrous cycle that echos past genocidal violence.

According to an anonymous Yanomami witness during the first half of June, in the vicinity of Xaruna community in the Brazilian state of Roraima, a group of Yanomami visited an illegal mining camp to request food. Having received less food than requested, the witness claims they complained to the miners, who then pursued the group with firearms and murdered two of them.

“The murder of two more Yanomami by miners must be rigorously investigated and reinforces the need for the Brazilian State to act urgently and immediately remove all the miners who are illegally exploiting the Yanomami Territory and harassing and assaulting the indigenous communities who live there. We call on the authorities to take all necessary measures to stop the mining which continues taking Yanomami lives,” says the Hutukara statement. “We fear that the families of the murdered Yanomami will decide to retaliate against the miners, following the Yanomami culture’s system of justice, which could lead to a cycle of violence that will result in a tragedy.”

For decades, the Yanomami have resisted the invasion of illegal miners on their lands, but conflicts between communities and illegal gold miners remain frequent. It is estimated that more than 20,000 illegal miners currently operate within Yanomami Indigenous Territory.

Under the Bolsonaro government’s ongoing encouragement of Indigenous land invasions, the number of miners in the region has dramatically increased and native communities fear for their safety. This month’s murders are not an isolated problem and are likely to recur in other areas affected by illegal mining on Yanomami lands.

The Hutukara statement notes that a similar situation resulted in the Haximu massacre in 1993, when 16 Yanomami from the community of Haximu were murdered by miners, in the first case of genocide recognized by the Brazilian state. Twenty-seven years after the massacre, the Yanomami once again face widespread invasions of their lands.

The Yanomami witness account describes a cyclical, fraught relationship between the Yanomami and miners ever since the Indigenous territory suffered invasions of more than 40,000 wildcat miners in the 1980s. At first, miners arrive in small numbers in a community’s territory and seek friendly relations with the Yanomami, offering food and goods from the city. As the number of miners increases and their settlement becomes permanent, they feel at ease in the territory and come to regard the Yanomami as a nuisance. The Yanomami’s requests for merchandise from the city are ignored and relations become tense.

With the advance of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum launched the #MinersOutCovidOut campaign, which has already collected 300,000 signatures for the immediate withdrawal of illegal miners from the Yanomami Territory. On June 16, Hutukara and the National Human Rights Council filed a request for precautionary measures with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The measure is intended to ensure that the Brazilian government takes concrete measures to protect the Yanomami.

The campaign is supported by the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB), the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), Survival International, Greenpeace Brazil, Conectas Human Rights, Amnesty International Brazil, Amazon Cooperation Network (RCA), Igarapé Institute, Rainforest Foundation US, Rainforest Foundation Norway, and Amazon Watch.

Rainforest Foundation US was founded 30 years ago to promote the rights of indigenous peoples living in the rainforest and to support them and other forest communities in their effort to protect and defend their territories.


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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.