First Trust Fund for Brazil's Kayapó to Protect Vast Swath of Amazon Rainforest

7/10/2011

Kayapó Fund is first to focus on long-term financing for conservation of the Amazon by indigenous peoples; will support monitoring of territories and development of sustainable economic activities

Brasília, Brazil - The first trust fund exclusively dedicated to the long term support of the Kayapó indigenous peoples in the southeastern Amazon region of Brazil was created with at least US$8 million (R$12.5 million) to provide in grants, Conservation International announced today. Grants will be targeted at terrestrial monitoring and protection of Kayapó land, as well as the development of sustainable economic activities for the Kayapó people. These grants will benefit approximately 7,000 people in five indigenous territories, in an area which constitutes the largest block of tropical forest protected by a single indigenous group and is encircled by increasing deforestation.

The Kayapó Fund will start operations with an initial donation of US$ 8 million, with US$ 4 million donated by Conservation International - including a large contribution through its Global Conservation Fund (GCF) funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation - and another US$4 million donated by Brazil's National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) through the Amazon Fund. This means that the Kayapó Fund will operate with US$ 8 million in its first five years of activity. After that, it should reach US$ 15 million, with the potential to go beyond that amount if new investors join the fund.

The Kayapó Fund will be managed by Fundo Brasileiro para a Biodiversidade (FUNBIO), a non-profit civil association focused on Brazil's biodiversity. Grants will be used to help conserve an area of 10.6 million hectares, (approximately 106,000 sq. km / 41,000 sq. mi.) which is about 3 percent of the Amazon or approximately equal in size to the countries of Guatemala or Iceland, or the U.S. state of Ohio.

"This is a truly amazing accomplishment made possible through a unique combination of partners: a development bank, a conservation organization and an indigenous community. The Kayapó are especially deserving of such a fund, having fought long and hard for their rights and having a level of cohesion, commitment and political savvy that is unmatched," said Russell Mittermeier, Conservation International's President. "Hopefully, this will serve as a model for similar efforts in other parts of the world. We are very proud of our role in this fund and of our partnership with the Kayapó for the last 20 years, including, among many other things, the participation of chief Megaron Txucarramae on our Board of Directors."

The Kayapó territories are rich in biodiversity and are located in the middle of the so-called "arc of deforestation" - the front line of forest destruction moving north from southern and southeastern Amazon, where approximately 80 percent of deforestation is concentrated. This frontier is characterized by violent land conflicts and the highest rate of deforestation in Brazil.

With limited financial resources and a relatively small population, the Kayapó people have been struggling to protect the borders of their territories against the increasing pressures of illegal encroachment from ranchers, loggers, gold-miners and fishermen. The grants are meant to support their ability to increase monitoring and enforcement against this kind of illegal resource extraction well into the future.

Megaron Txucarramae, a Board Member of Conservation International and Leader of the Kayapó, said: "It is good that grants will go to projects managed by indigenous people to generate income for the Kayapó. This fund is an opportunity for our people to learn to work and earn a living. Money must also be used to oversee the Kayapó land, the Xingu River, and the boundaries of indigenous lands. We need to monitor the area to contain invasions and fires."

Since 1992, Conservation International has supported Kayapó efforts to protect their culture and habitats by providing economic alternatives to logging and strengthening territorial surveillance capacity. Development of economic alternatives focuses on the abundant non-timber forest products that are found in the Kayapó forests and which can be harvested easily by communities. For example, harvesting Brazil nuts already formed part of the life of many Kayapó communities. Today this traditional activity has been expanded to provide a source of income for some Kayapó communities, which harvest, transport and process the nuts. The production of refined products from this raw material is technically uncomplicated and falls within the present capacity of Kayapó communities to undertake.

Fabio Scarano, Americas Vice President at Conservation International, said: "It took us almost two years to create this fund, but it was worth struggling for it as it will bring climate and biodiversity benefits, besides contributing to the well-being of the Kayapó. This is a great victory for the Kayapó and for Brazil, which is setting an example to the world when it comes to conservation of indigenous lands."

The design of the Kayapó Fund was inspired by the models of U.S. trust funds to use the annual investment income generated from the capital to provide sufficient funding for the long-term management of the supported territories. The supported projects will be formulated and proposed by indigenous organizations, selected by a Technical Committee and submitted to the consent of the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI). Projects must also be approved by a Donor Committee. Conservation International is a member of the Technical Committee and Donor Committee. Currently, three Kayapó organizationsare eligible for funding: Associação Floresta Protegida, Instituto Kabu and Instituto Raoni. Each NGO is led by a council of Kayapó leaders and each represents different communities in different regions of the Kayapó Fund Supported Territories.

More about the Kayapó
The Kayapó, an ethnic group that call themselves Mebengokre, maintain legal and practical control over primary forest and cerrado (savannah) in the states of Pará and Mato Grosso in Brazil. They inhabit territories throughout the Xingu River basin, and their current population is approximately 7,000 people, scattered in 23 villages, which vary in size from 60 to almost 1,000 people. Throughout southeastern Amazonia, a corridor of protected areas is helping to ensure effective legal protection of about half of the Xingu basin. The indigenous territories in the Xingu basin constitute a large area of intact forest, of which 10.6 million ha of the Bau, Kayapó, Menkragnoti, Badjonkôre and Capoto/Jarina Indigenous Territories will benefit from the Kayapó Fund. By improving the monitoring of their land, grants should help the Kayapó face the increased pressure from the expected migration of new residents during the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam further upstream in the Xingu River.

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For more information, contact:
United States - Patricia Yakabe Malentaqui
+1 703 341-2471
pmalentaqui@conservation.org

Brazil - Gabriela Michelotti
+55 61 3226-2491
gmichelotti@conservation.org

Note to editors:
Conservation International (CI)
 - Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the long term well-being of people. Founded in 1987, CI has headquarters in the Washington, DC area, and nearly 900 employees working in more than 30 countries on four continents, plus 1,000+ partners around the world. For more information, visit www.conservation.org and follow us on Twitter: @ConservationOrg or Facebook: www.facebook.com/conservation.intl

Global Conservation Fund (GCF) - Conservation International's GCF finances the creation, expansion and long-term management of protected areas. Made possible by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, GCF provides financial and strategic assistance to enable local communities, nongovernmental organizations and governments to protect their biological riches.