The Indigenous Will Save the Amazon / by Yessenia Funes

  CIFOR  / Filckr 

CIFOR / Filckr 

When it come to saving the Amazon Rainforest, private organizations have historically played a major role. So have public, government entities. But are they really the best people to get the job done? 

Not according to this study. Researchers at the University of Cambridge, the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Peruvian Ministry of Environment published the study in the journal Scientific Reports yesterday (Sept. 12). They looked at how different conservation methods proved effective in the Peruvian Amazon between 2006 and 2011. The forest is important to save not only for ecological and biodiversity reasons. The Amazon is home to a number of indigenous tribes, some of which remain uncontacted and rely on the forest to survive.

As it turns out, initiatives led by local and indigenous people have sometimes been better at protecting the rainforest than government efforts. The study did highlight though that all efforts succeeded at protecting the forest when compared to non-protected areas—just that some more than others. The research looked specifically at deforestation and forest degradation brought on by humans like logging and fires. 

“Our analysis shows that local stewardship of the forest can be very effective at curtailing forest degradation and conversion in the Peruvian Amazon,” said lead author Dr. Judith Schleicher, from Cambridge’s Department of Geography, in a press release. “Local conservation initiatives deserve more political, financial and legal support than they currently receive.”

Debate is ongoing in Peru about whether local and indigenous communities should be in control of natural resources like the forest. The Amazon faces many obstacles in Peru. In 15 years, the natural body lost 1.8 million hectares of forest.

For the communities that live closest to the so-called "lungs of the Earth," the Amazon's loss is more than a major carbon emitter; it's the loss of their home.