In the Brazilian Amazon, where Indian lands begin, deforestation ends. Nowhere is this effect more striking than in the case of the Kayapo indigenous territories -embedded as they are in the one of the most intense deforestation zones in the world.
The Kayapo are the guardians of the rainforest. They control the largest protected tract of tropical forest in the world. At unprecedented size of 11 million hectares (110,000 km2) Kayapo lands span an area as large or larger than 42% of the world’s 250 countries. Their territories now form a huge island of forest within a sea of cattle pasture in the colonization frontier of the south-eastern Amazon. In this sometimes lawless region of weak governance, the Kayapo alone must protect their constitutional rights and the forests upon which their culture and future depends.
The conservation of Kayapo lands is incredibly important for all of us. By stopping deforestation at their doorstep, the Kayapo prevent at least one billon tons of CO2 from being released to the atmosphere. They protect the home of countless species of plants and animals that form a rich diversity of the planet’s life forms. Kayapo forest plays a significant role in generating regional and national rainfall.
For 30 years the Kayapo have been on the front line of rainforest defense. However, they have had sustained contact with outside society really only beginning in the late 1970s and are still learning how to negotiate the new realities of a capitalist society. With the forces aligning against them gaining in power, the Kayapo sought alliances with outside NGOs to help them understand and deal with modern society. These alliances have proved crucial for empowering the Kayapo to continue to protect their land against invasion by loggers, ranchers, miners and large government infrastructure projects. Major international partners are The International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and the WILD Foundation.