At home in the Amazon: Protecting biodiversity and livelihoods together

© IUCN/Sergio Garrido, IAPA Project

FAO safeguards sustainable livelihoods while conserving the Amazon

Key facts

The Amazon is home to the largest expanse of tropical rain forest remaining on Earth. About twice the size of India, these forests play a vital role in regulating the global climate and providing other services, like water purification and carbon absorption.

33 million people inhabit the Amazon and about 420 indigenous communities live directly off of its resources for their water and food needs, as well as their livelihoods. These livelihoods and lifestyles are intrinsically linked to the preservation of the forests and to the conservation of its biodiversity. The Amazon holds more than half of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.

The FAO-led Integration of Amazon Protected Areas (IAPA) project is supporting the community of Latin-American and Caribbean park directors of the Amazon’s protected areas (RedParques) and ensures the effective and collaborative oversight of these areas. By strengthening the governance process, the IAPA project is helping to protect local and indigenous communities and their livelihoods, preserving the biodiversity of the Amazon biome and supporting the management of one of the most important ecosystems in the world. 

For many centuries, the Amazon has been home to millions of people who live in harmony with nature. These communities have developed ways of living and methods of farming that safeguard the land and its resources.  

Climate change threatens not only the Amazon’s natural resources, it threatens the lives and livelihoods of the people who call it their home.

Jorge Job Trigoso is a community member from Villa Florida and belongs to one of the 10 communities and approximately 306 families that work in Brazilian nut management within the Manuripi National Wildlife Reserve in Bolivia. A few kilometres away, Omar Masx, lives in the community of Curichón, and has also benefitted from producing açaí and Brazilian nuts sustainably. Both have one quality in common: they are guardians of the forest.

"Here we do not knock down plants; this is a protected area where we should not cut down trees or log; we understand where we are living," says Jorge Trigoso, gesturing to the vast forests that surround his house.

On the border of Bolivia, Brazil and Peru, the Manuripi reserve extends 747 000 hectares and it is one of the areas with the highest wildlife diversity in Bolivia. It also holds the Madre de Dios and the Manuripi rivers, two of the most important in the Amazon basin.  

Protected Areas, like Manuripi, are considered one of the best way to conserve biodiversity and to help naturally tackle climate change, as forests reduce greenhouse gases. Protected Areas conserve ecosystems while maintaining the cultural values of their inhabitants and promoting their traditional ways of managing natural resources.

A vision for preserving the Amazon

With RedParques as the main implementing partner, FAO together with IUCN, UNEP, WWF and the European Union have developed the Integration of Amazon Protected Areas (IAPA) project. This project involves the 8 countries (Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela) plus the French Guiana territory that make up the Amazon biome.

The IAPA project fosters the effective and collaborative oversight of the Amazon’s protected areas. This helps to minimize the impacts of climate change on the Amazon biome and to increase the resilience of peoples’ livelihoods to these environmental changes. By ensuring a regional, cross-border approach to the Amazon, the project better protects its biodiversity and safeguards the communities and local economies that depend on the Amazon for food and livelihoods.

"We are the ones who must take care of the forest. For example, we used to cut down the açaí tree to get its fruits. We do not do that anymore; we climb the tree to pick them. We have to take care of the trees because we live off of them," explains Omar.

In Manuripi, the economy has mainly depended on resources from the forest, especially açaí and Brazilian nuts. Nowadays the people of Manuripi are also venturing into the sustainable production of açaí. The sustainable management of açaí and Brazilian nuts has become a role model for the Amazon communities. Brazilian nuts, for example, has even been internationally certified as a quality product.

The Southern Landscape (El Paisaje Sur) is one of two priority action area s for the IAPA project. It is comprised of the Manuripi National Wildlife Reserve (Bolivia), the Chandless State Park and the Cazumbá-Iracema Extractive Reserve (Brazil), the Alto Purús Natural Park and the Purús Communal Reserve (Peru).

What we are protecting

For Jorge, Omar and the communities of the Amazon, making livelihoods sustainable and protecting the resources of the Amazon are crucial for survival.

But no matter where we live on this planet, the Amazon benefits us in ways we do not even recognize. It pulls carbon dioxide out of the air and purifies our water; these are actions that we take for granted but without which our world would change. What happens to the Amazon happens to all of us.

“The Amazon is the lung of the world; it is such an important part because of all the services that it offers the different countries of the world,” emphasizes Andrea Barrero, Officer of the National Parks of Colombia. 

Coordinated Protection

Communities like Jorge’s and Omar’s are learning about the responsible use of the Amazon’s resources. By working with institutions from around Brazil and Peru’s Protected Areas, these communities are learning from each other and adopting best practices for the preservation of the area. This learning and interchange of ideas and experiences has enriched the IAPA project.

Through joint trainings and workshops that help coordinate the action plans and experiences of the various countries in the Amazon biome, this project provides a larger perspective for Amazonian countries to work together and think beyond borders.

Between 2011 and 2015, the region has set aside 44 new protected areas. The IAPA project is seeing to it that these areas are properly coordinated and managed with a regional approach. To date, more than 170 million hectares in the Amazon region are protected areas and the vision seeks to explore further conservation priorities in order to benefit local populations.

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