The Paiter Suruí people of the Brazilian Amazon have found themselves at ground zero of tropical deforestation since 1969, when they first made sustained contact with the rest of the world.
Since then, illegal logging and agricultural deforestation have destroyed much of the Brazilian rainforest, threatening the Paiter Suruí’s ancestral home and their very existence.
"Without the forest, our entire culture would disappear. And without our culture, the forest would have disappeared a long time ago."Chief Almir of the Paiter Suruí
Rather than allow others to wrench away their destiny, the Paiter Suruí developed a 50-year plan to preserve the rainforest and protect their way of life. A central element of this plan is the Suruí Forest Carbon Project (SFCP), designed to provide financial benefits to the Suruí community in return for their commitment to protect and restore large areas of the tropical forest.
"Without the forest, our entire culture would disappear. And without our culture, the forest would have disappeared a long time ago," says Chief Almir of the Paiter Suruí. "It’s important to live in a sustainable way and to strengthen those whose livelihoods depend on healthy ecosystems."
In 2012, the Rainforest Alliance and Brazilian partner group IMAFLORA validated this ground-breaking venture–the first indigenous Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) project in Amazonia–against two rigorous, globally recognized standards: the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance Standard and the Verified Carbon Standard. The Suruí were the first indigenous group to achieve this distinction and benefit from the credibility that comes with an independent, third-party assessment of their project design.
To prevent the exploitation of indigenous populations, it is vital that communities give free, prior, and informed consent throughout the development of a carbon project. In the case of the SFCP, the Suruí truly led the process, making the project a beacon for other indigenous groups seeking to protect their land and cultures.