Indigenous Economy: Lessons from four value chain projects contributing towards Amazon conservation efforts

The Indigenous economy is a way to strengthen traditional peoples’ culture and to ensure their territorial governance. A source of income contributes to the conservation of the Amazon and its biodiversity. In December Forest Trends Communities and Territorial Governance Initiative (ICGT-FT) published a series of books on the value chains of handicrafts, Brazil nuts, cocoa, and açaí.

The four publications — named "From Indigenous Lands to Markets" — were launched in an online webinar (available in Portuguese), which engaged Indigenous participants and Forest Trends partners in discussions. The initiative was part of the Nossa Floresta Nossa Casa project (Our Forest, Our Home) supported by USAID/Brazil, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and the Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA).

"Since the colonial period, Indigenous products have always been present in the lives of Brazilians, including crops such as corn and cassava, hammocks, vocabulary, and several customs," recalled Maria do Carmo Barcellos, chief culture and gender mediator at Forest Trends. During her presentation, she added that in addition to ensuring income generation, the indigenous economy is consolidating peoples' ways of life. 

Marciely Ayap Tupari, Manages Tecê-AGIR, they  gather handicraft artisans in Rondônia. "Handicrafts represent our peoples' identities. They are much more than mere objects — they are our very culture. The handicrafts generate income for our women artisans, but also speak of our traditions," she said.

For Beto Borges, director of the ICGT-FT, the results of value-chain-strengthening initiatives include the maintenance of the standing forest and the conservation of biodiversity. "Building on our culture and traditions, we can add unique products to these chains," he added.

The webinar followed an event held in June 2021 to discuss the differentials of the markets that can be sought by Indigenous economic initiatives.

Attention to the markets — According to Marcio Halla, coordinator for Nossa Floresta Nossa Casa and for Indigenous economy at the ICGT-FT, these publications serve as a guide for the consolidation of actions aimed at Indigenous economies and the value of human resources.

They introduce concepts linked to territorial governance and Indigenous economies, and are organized in two parts. The first presents data, information, and aspects of the value chains and markets, highlighting their characteristics, challenges, and opportunities. In the second, they address particularities of the Tupi Mosaic's Indigenous economic initiatives and the ongoing arrangements where the project operates, including eight Indigenous Lands and 21 Indigenous Peoples.

The publication recounts other Indigenous economic initiatives at the Tupi Guaporé territory, in Rondônia and Mato Grosso. 

The ICGT-FT addresses territorial governance and promotes a number of initiatives in Indigenous territories aimed to bring together cultural, political, and economic capacity, in addition to valuing the autonomy and self-determination of peoples.

The books on Indigenous value chains are available here