IUCN had special visitors at its Headquarters on Tuesday morning! Four representatives from the indigenous Suruí people of Mato Grosso state in the Brazilian Amazon are participating in the Paléo Music Festival in Switzerland and visited us to share their stories regarding ongoing conservation activities carried out on their lands.
“In a standing forest there are a variety of environmental services and we believe that if we use these services wisely we can improve the well-being of people” says Chief Almir. He strongly believes that the services provided by standing forests far outweigh their value in timber. A variety of products can be extracted from forests including materials for jewellery, medicine, natural oils, nuts and honey. Animal species and water are also of great spiritual value for the Suruí people, And finally, forests are important sources of food, water and jobs. Ivaneide stated: “To cut down a forest all you need is a machine and a person who operates it, hence you only generate one job, whereas to keep it standing you can generate employment for many more people including rangers to protect it, biologists to study it, and different producers that collect and commercialise its products”.
The Suruí representatives further shared concerns about illegal logging and cattle encroachment on their lands, and about construction of hydroelectric dams in the wider region.
The indigenous group of the Suruí believes that conserving and sustainably managing the unique diversity of species harboured by the Amazon forest can improve the quality of life for its people and is also the best option from an economic point of view. They also believe that by combining their traditional knowledge with IUCN’s scientific knowledge the value of the Amazon can be better realised and protected. Living closely with nature, their people have knowledge about species that is not currently captured by scientists.
What they do to protect these services?
There are many ways in which the Suruí people have been working to protect the services provided by their forests. They have carried out scientific research to determine the status and properties of various local species which helps them to make decisions about what to use or protect. Secondly, they do not rely solely on wild species but have created nurseries for plants that are in high demand, to ensure sustainable harvesting and also reforestation of degraded areas. Additionally, they have been lobbying the Government to recognize the value of standing forests and their importance to the people that live and depend on them. Itabira stated “Standing forests should be a solution, not an impediment”.