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Communities Initiative


Forest Trends' Communities Initiative (CI) partners with indigenous and traditional communities in their efforts to secure their rights, conserve their forests and improve their livelihoods and territorial governance. These communities play a key role in the global challenge of fighting climate change and saving the remaining forests from destruction. 

  • Deforestation rates in forests guarded by local and traditional communities are 11 times lower than surrounding areas.
  • In the Brazilian Amazon, for example, indigenous communities manage 21.7% of the forests, which represent 27% of the carbon stocks in the region.
  • Over 90% of the world's poorest people depend on forests and other ecosystems to secure their livelihoods and maintain their cultures.

We focus in Latin America where 50% of the world's tropical forests remain, with 25% of these forests inhabited and guarded by indigenous and traditional communities. CI provides key information, capacity building and technical assistance so that communities can secure their rights, manage their forests and create economic livelihoods that strengthen their cultures and improve their livelihoods.


Current Strategies

Territorial Governance Program - We are designing a Territorial Governance program to increase the capacity of indigenous organizations to manage their territories and strengthen their local economies. The program will take place in Acre (Brazil), Puyo (Ecuador), Ucayali (Peru), Putumayo (Colombia) and Chiapas (México), working with two local partners, one academic and one indigenous, in each of these regions. It will provide training on rights, strategic planning, financial administration, integrated natural resource management, territorial border protection and monitoring, life plans, economic alternatives, and other essential curricula for good territorial governance.




Cultural Mediators Program for Indigenous Schoolteachers - Cultural Mediators are community teachers trained to educate according to local cultures and realities. We are developing specific curriculum on local approaches for climate change adaptation as well as integrated territorial planning and management, and working with the public school system both within and near forest communities to introduce climate change awareness, risk mitigation, and adaptation.


Income Opportunities for Indigenous Women - We develop indigenous women's handicrafts cooperatives in order to generate income, increase women's participation in their communities, create skills for new generations, and value traditional cultural practices. We work with women artisans to improve their business acumen, enhance product quality, and establish connections to markets in order to increase the viability of their artisanal businesses.


Sustainable Forest Management and Conservation - We provide technical assistance for designing and implementing agroforestry systems at the community level. These systems focus on achieving food security, increased nutrition, climate resilience, and economic alternatives. We are currently working with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) in Acre. By strengthening technical assistance strategies, EMBRAPA supports CI in our efforts to select climate-change resilient food crops and establish medicinal plants gardens, to enhance family income and provide skills training for youth.  Within these living pharmacies, a variety of medicinal plants are cultivated, which represent a history of traditional customary use.


We strive to create strategies that are in line with our partners' cultural heritage. These ongoing efforts reflect an approach to development that emphasizes the values and norms of local communities.


Current Projects

Accelerating Inclusion and Mitigating Emissions (AIME) Program

CI leads the Forest-Based Livelihood Consortium, a partnership of ten environmental and indigenous organizations in Latin America. AIME supports forest-dependent communities to contribute and directly benefit from climate change mitigation efforts that align with their Life Plans.

30 villages situated on 185,000 hectares of land, form part of a dream to recover and protect these forests which are home to 930 people. The Igarape Lourdes community decided to become part of one of the five indigenous REDD pilot projects in the Amazon Basin.

AIME is also improving capacity of sub-national governments to develop low-emissions rural development policies and programs, such as REDD+ jurisdictional programs. The focus is on developing legal and administrative frameworks to support fair inclusion of indigenous and other traditional communities, ensuring respect for their territorial rights and direct benefits from the implementation of these policies. AIME is a program funded by USAID.

You can learn more about the AIME program here:   English   |   Español   |   Português

Short video of the third Indigenous Economy workshop, under the Accelerating Inclusion and Mitigating Emissions (AIME) program.

Full video of the third Indigenous Economy workshop, under the Accelerating Inclusion and Mitigating Emissions (AIME) program.

Stewards of the Forest

Nestled deep in the Brazilian Amazon along the Peruvian border, the state of Acre contains about 15 million hectares of land – most of which remains pristine virgin rainforest. It's also home to thousands of indigenous people, who serve an invaluable role as stewards of the Amazonian rainforest.


To view the video in Spanish, please click here.

To view the video in Portuguese, please click here.

Supporting these communities is essential if we are to keep forests standing in places like Acre and, in turn, move closer to both preserving their cultural heritage and achieving global climate goals. The indigenous Yawanawa community is a group of about 1,250 people living in nine villages spread across a vast forest territory in this region.

You can learn more about this program here.

Defending the Living Amazon for Humanity

This program, a component of Forest Trends' NICFI-funded initiative entitled "Advancing Global Forest Governance: Defending the Living Amazon for Humanity," enables greater control by indigenous groups over resources indended for territorial control and governance in five countries of the Amazon basin: Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Guyana. 

Strategy: Efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation will be more effective if the people who are responsible for territorial management and control have more direct control over REDD resources. The project will support the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) to build technical and governance capacity within indigenous institutions to obtain and manage climate finance in order to fulfil their Life Plans.  Successful implementation will, in turn, facilitate advocacy for pro-indigenous forest policy as well as improved forest governance in political, economic, and cultural terms.

The program has three essential sub-components:

  1. Support for the development of culturally appropriate proposals from indigenous territories and national organizations within the five target countries, as well as engagement with multilateral, bilateral and private funding organizations.
  2. A governance training program, drawing on local and national expertise to develop territorial life plans that express the cultural identity, priorities, aspirations, and self-governance of their indigenous community authors.
  3. Financial and administrative training.

Expected Results: The training, improved administrative and financial management skills, and networking enabled by this project are expected to generate successful proposals leading to at least US$20 million in new funding commitments through indigenous funding channels such as the proposed Indigenous Fund for the Amazon.  With support to improve indigenous livelihoods and territorial governance, indigenous peoples can more effectively help to slow or even reverse deforestation.

IKEA Partnership

The CI has partnered with the IKEA Foundation, to support sustainable economic opportunities for 2,000 Yawanawa and the Surui people of the Brazilian Amazon – whose territory encompasses 450,000 hectares (10% of the Netherlands). More specifically, we are leveraging opportunities for women and young people – through agroforestry training, women's craft art co-operatives, youth cultural exchanges, and installation of solar water pumps.


Learn more about this partnership here:

The Brazil Matrix

In a study released in 2015, Forest Trends established the Brazil Matrix, which mapped the payments for ecosystem services initiatives in Brazil. The idea behind the Matrix is to provide a platform that allows the general public access to crucial information, encourage the development of economic incentives to promote the conservation and recovery of ecosystem services in Brazil. Read more about the Matrix here: brazil.forest-trends.org

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