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Brazil

35 years supporting Brazil’s Indigenous peoples in defending their rights and territories across the world’s largest rainforest.

2020

Started working in 1988

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Working with partners representing over 500 communities

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Supported the demarcation of nearly 42 million acres (17 million hectares) of Indigenous territories

Our Work

While Rainforest Foundation US has worked in Brazil since our founding, in recent years we have concentrated our efforts on the states of Roraima and Mato Grosso, in the northern and southern Brazilian Amazon respectively. In western Roraima, the Yanomami Territory is the largest swath of rainforest under Indigenous control in the world. The biodiverse savannah and forest ecosystems of eastern Roraima are home to Raposa Serra do Sol, a key territory in the ongoing legal struggle for Indigenous peoples’ land rights in Brazil. In Mato Grosso, the Xingu Indigenous Territory, spanning 6.5 million acres, stands as an oasis of forest and rivers, facing growing threats from pollution and deforestation encroaching upon its borders.

Rainforest Foundation US’s partnership with Indigenous representative organizations in these areas seeks to build on their historic leadership in the movement for Indigenous peoples’ rights in Brazil, create deforestation solutions, and address the destructive presence of illegal miners and large-scale agribusiness.

Our current projects in Brazil are aligned with our three strategic priorities:

Land Rights

Rainforest Foundation US’s earliest land rights work happened in Brazil, including precedent-setting initiatives in territories like Panara and Raposa Serra do Sol. We continue to support our partners in Brazil in defending their rights and advancing legal recognition of their ancestral territories. This includes working with Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) on defending the demarcation of Raposa Serra do Sol, both through a case at the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, as well as supporting the movement against the Marco Temporal legal thesis. We’re also working with the Instituto Socioambiental-ISA, the Xingu Indigenous Association (ATIX) and the Xingu+ Network to carry out Free, Prior and Informed Consent protocols in light of major development projects that would impact their lands.

Territorial Protection & Governance

Rainforest Foundation US supports our partners in Brazil by strengthening and expanding Indigenous-led forest monitoring programs. Over 5.44 million acres (2.2 million hectares) of Indigenous territories are monitored, through the coordination of four monitoring hubs spanning four of the most vulnerable territories under CIR: Wai Wai, Raposa Serra do Sol, Moskow, and Boqueirão. Our strategic vision encompasses the integration of 15 monitoring hubs by 2028. We also partner with Seduume, a Ye’kwana association, and the Wai Wai people of Roraima, to harness mapping and data technology to bolster their advocacy efforts.

Organizational Strenghtening

Rainforest Foundation US collaborates with local partners to strengthen their territorial governance and facilitate effective project management. We support partners by providing core funding; supporting their assemblies and governance; in managing projects and funds; and in involving women and youth. This comprehensive approach is integral to all our partnerships.

Rainforests

Brazil is the most biodiverse country in the world. Fifteen to 20% of the world’s biological diversity is found across the country’s six biomes. With nearly 60% forest cover, Brazil also contains the Earth’s largest area of tropical rainforest and two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest.

The Brazilian Amazon is home to a wide range of species. Some are endangered and many endemic—such as the Amazon river dolphin, the giant river otter, and the harpy eagle. Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is part of the largest above-ground carbon store. Its survival is essential in the fight to curb the global impacts of the climate crisis.

INDIGENOUS  PEOPLES

Brazil’s population of 1.65 million Indigenous peoples includes 305 distinct groups, including the Yanomami, Ashaninka, Guarani, Tukano, Macuxi, and Wapichana, to name a few. In addition, decades of careful research suggests that more than 100 Indigenous groups remain uncontacted, living in voluntary isolation in the forest.

Indigenous peoples of Brazil have a long history of achieving land rights and state recognition. In 2023, many Indigenous women assumed political office in the Brazilian government, including Sônia Guajajara, the inaugural appointee as the Minister of the newly established Ministry of Indigenous Peoples. Joênia Wapichana, was the first Indigenous woman to be appointed Director of the Federal Bureau of Indigenous Affairs (FUNAI), and Célia Xakriabá, the first Indigenous woman to represent Minas Gerais state in Congress. While the Brazilian Indigenous movement has achieved many victories, much work remains to ensure the rights of the country’s many Indigenous peoples.

To date, 761 Indigenous territories—representing nearly 13.8% of Brazil’s land mass—have been officially recognized. However, an estimated 478 additional territories are awaiting titles, an essential step for Indigenous communities to defend themselves from violence and deforestation.

Threats

Brazil is losing its forests at an alarming rate, accounting for a staggering 43% of global tropical primary forest loss in 2022. To put it in perspective: In 2022 alone, Brazil lost 4.45 million acres (1.8 million hectares) of primary forest, an area more than twice the size of Yellowstone National Park.

Political threats exacerbate this situation. The 2018-2022 administration of Jair Bolsonaro created a hostile environment for Indigenous peoples and environmental defenders, with the government promoting large-scale agriculture, mining, logging, and land-grabbing to exploit the forest. Despite the election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) in 2022, pro-extractive industry forces still wield influence in Congress, posing an ongoing threat to the Amazon rainforest and its peoples.

Among the industries fueling deforestation, cattle ranching stands out as the most pervasive. Brazil’s position as the world’s largest beef exporter has fueled the expansion of ranching, which employs destructive land uses, often encroaching on primary forests and Indigenous peoples’ lands. Additionally, the illicit mining industry (garimpo) contributes to forest devastation, water pollution, and violence against Indigenous communities. Even under Lula’s government, major infrastructure development plans persist under the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA). This initiative will build new dams, ports, and roads, all of which will likely lead to increased deforestation.

These threats make it increasingly dangerous to protect the Amazon rainforest and advocate for Indigenous rights. Since 2014, at least 296 environmental defenders have been killed in the Amazon.

Credit: Chico Batata | Greenpeace

Partners

Take Action Against Climate Change

Rainforests absorb and store more carbon dioxide than all other types of forests, making rainforest protection one of the most effective solutions to climate change. Support Indigenous peoples on the frontlines of rainforest protection.

Hover over the amounts to see what your donation can achieve:

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.

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.

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.

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.

THE EARTH IS SPEAKING​

Will you listen?

This Earth Day, join us and our Indigenous partners in protecting rainforests—and our planet.

Any amount makes a difference.

Didier Devers
Chief of Party – USAID Guatemala
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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.