Indigenous Peoples Highlight the Traditional Knowledge in Forest Governance

'It is important to give voice to the Indigenous Peoples who looks after the land,' says Sinéia

August, 2022 — “It has been scientifically proven that Indigenous peoples provide ancient services that no amount of money may ever pay, protecting the forest…. Keeping the forest standing is rooted in sustainable management and ancient Indigenous wisdom," stated Sinéia Wapichana, coordinator of the Territorial and Environmental Management Department at the Roraima Indigenous Council (CIR).

This message was shared during the Biodiversity Conservation and Indigenous Territories panel, at the PCAB Partners Meeting. The panel was composed of eight different Indigenous leaders from the Amazon and was mediated by Andréia Bavaresco, Executive Coordinator of the Brazilian Education Institute (IEB). 

A “Uirapuru Chant” marked the opening of the dialogue. The chant represented a bird that sings and must be followed by the forest dwellers. “It is important to strengthen Indigenous Peoples and their organizations. Give voice to those who have always looked after our land with kindness and are considered guardians of the forest and of the wisdom that surrounds it,” added Sinéia.

During the event, Indigenous representatives spoke about the challenges of conserving Amazon biodiversity in the face of external pressures and the impacts of climate change. “We work with young people and teach them that standing forests are worth more than degraded ones. We value traditional knowledge combined with the knowledge of universities to create something innovative,” said Enock Taurepang, Deputy Coordinator of the CIR.

Jonas Gavião, from the Wyty Catë Association, said that training young people was essential, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. He identified learning new technologies for distance learning as a challenge for his community. “Training Indigenous environmental agents and fire brigades is of utmost importance for the movement in Maranhão, hence the need to strengthen working conditions for all peoples in the region.”

Women's empowerment — Dacilene Apurinã, representative of the Apurinã and Jamamadi Indigenous Peoples Organization (OPIAJ), described the “Entre Parentas” training program and its importance for Indigenous women and their communities (learn more about it here).

“This project has given voice and visibility to indigenous women”, she remarked, citing several income-generating activities, including the production of andiroba soap, chocolate made with native cocoa, basketry, and ceramics. “This has helped women earn their own income using products provided by nature, without cutting the forest.”

According to Marcilene Guajajara, from the Maranhão Indigenous Organizations Network (COAPIMA), the inclusion of women in these projects is precarious, despite the challenge they continue to persevere. “We are working toward improving the current situation. Today, we want more visibility.”

Sulane Guajajara, coordinator of Maranhão Indigenous Women Network (AMIMA), described the various partnerships formed with organizations to galvanize communities.

“USAID promotes biodiversity conservation, and so do the Indigenous peoples who fight to protect Mother Earth, who is responsible for all life,” added Maria Bethânia Macuxi, Secretary General of the CIR Indigenous Women's Movement.