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The Amazon forests require action

By Practical Action On 21.08.2023 Climate changeEnvironmentGovernanceBlog

The Amazon Summit brought together representatives from 8 countries to promote joint actions to take in the face of climate change. It included the protection of human rights and forests, as well as the development of local economies. Here, we review its importance and the potential for regional collaboration.

With incredible biodiversity in a territory twice the size of India, the Amazon forest is recognised as an ecological reserve for both local and indigenous people in addition to everyone in the rest of the world. This enormous tropical forest is an immense carbon storehouse – as long as it is conserved and cared for properly. When deforestation increases, the Amazon releases carbon into the atmosphere, exacerbating the impacts of climate change, such as drought and increased temperatures, which threaten the benefits provided by the forest.

Its leading cause is human activity. The accelerated increase of forest land for other uses, added to the effects of climate change, such as more intense periods of drought and forest fires, is accelerating the loss of large areas of the Amazon. Worse still, deforestation often occurs in a context of violence against indigenous peoples and local communities.

Deforesting the Amazon is accelerating climate change

Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia hold the first, third, fifth and sixth places as countries with the most forest loss, according to the 2022 study by Global Forest Watch.

Looking at this situation of concern and risk for the region and the world, we find that Bolivia has lost almost 8 million hectares of forest in 37 years, while Peru has lost 3 million hectares in the same period. However, because it is a shared area, the loss of Amazonian territories generates challenges all countries that host it must face together.

For this reason, the Amazon Summit held a few days ago in Belém do Pará (Brazil) was a crucial event for agreeing on joint actions for the future of the Amazon. Aside from being a carbon sink, it has great importance to this region, extending over 7.4 million square kilometres and where the Amazon River basin is the largest in the world, with approximately 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater surface (CEPAL). It is also the home of thousands of local communities and numerous indigenous groups, such as the Wampis, Awajún, and Tacana.

As a result, the summit had representatives from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

In the fourteen years since the last summit, the impacts of climate change have increased exponentially, causing losses in lives, livelihoods and ecosystem diversity. Practical Action welcomes the willingness to seek solutions that respond to the urgency and gravity of the situation.

Regional action for a global problem

Opening the way for a regional discussion is one of the achievements of this summit. However, as a matter of urgency, seeds sown during the event must soon bear fruit through agreements and actions to benefit people and the planet.

It is also vital to centre the voices and amplify the needs of indigenous organisations (including women, youth, older people and people with disabilities) so that their commitments and actions are appropriate and respectful of their rights and ways of life.

Although the development of its populations is a priority for the region, there are ways to promote alternatives compatible with the conservation of the Amazon and the self-determination of indigenous peoples and local communities.

If we don’t do this, our shared future will continue replicating past inequities and close the door to crucial leadership and knowledge to address the climate crisis.

Proven paths for a thriving future

In Bolivia, Practical Action works with the government, local organisations and the private sector to halt deforestation and protect forests. We provide technical assistance and recommendations to the government to improve emissions measurement and reporting systems in the forestry and agricultural sectors. These systems will help establish and track progress against the country’s climate action plans and sustainability goals.

In addition, together with the Indigenous Council of the Tacana People, we are working under a model of incentives based on agroforestry systems and agreements for the conservation of their forests and biodiversity, which include plans for the management and use of non-timber resources and sustainable and inclusive enterprises led by women and young people. These initiatives ensure sustainable forest management by local communities while generating income and strengthening their resilience.

In Peru, we promote local development in the regions of San Martin, Cajamarca and Ucayali through the development of sustainable livelihoods. This prevents farmers from continuing to migrate and cut down forests, allows them to generate income, and, at the same time, ensures the conservation of forests and their biodiversity.

Practical Action has also worked in the coffee, cacao and banana production sectors with the government and the private sector through plans and actions that have had national impact. With the Awajún and Wampis indigenous communities, we promote the development of enterprises led by young people and women, including nursery production, beekeeping, bartending, tourism and others.

These initiatives have demonstrated the compatibility between conservation and local economic development and must now be taken to scale with support from the authorities.

International agreements help ensure that these experiences can be shared, adapted and scaled up so learning and successful work can reach thousands more people. It is time for us to take decisive steps to move away from scenarios of no return for our ecosystem towards a future we all value.

A woman holding a piece of bread in the Amazon forests.



Learn more about our experience in Latin America:

Coffee and cacao farmers

Empowering rural education with indigenous communities in Peru

How regenerative farming is blossoming globally