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Even in the Amazon, you can't escape PowerPoint. Last month, 80 members of the Gavião people met in their territory (called Igarapé Lourdes) in the state of Rondônia, Brazil to discuss their "Life Plan." Dressed in a combination of traditional and western clothes – feathered headdresses, ceremonial beads, and jeans – the group hung shrouds around the open-air structure to block out sunlight for the presentations.
Life Plans for indigenous peoples have been proliferating across the Amazon for the last 20 years, starting in Colombia in 1992. The plans are shared visions for the future, often built around spatial maps that identify important hunting and harvesting areas, sacred sites, and forested areas, detailed with the quality of cover and species. The Gavião's Life Plan is based on low-impact agriculture and the sale of native crafts and non-timber forest products such as nuts and copaiba oil. It lays out a strategy for preventing unwanted logging by building monitoring stations and strengthening cooperation with police and government agencies.
As they knock up against funding challenges, one question that many Amazonian indigenous groups are now asking is this: Are Life Plans a version of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests), the carbon finance mechanism that pays for forest protection?
At first glance, Life Plans and the project documentation required around REDD projects seems very different. REDD requires reference levels of deforestation and measurement of carbon stocks – technical aspects not found in Life Plans. But the basic principle of fighting the threats to forests by creating long-term economic alternatives is analagous.
During the climate change negotiations in Lima last December, leaders from COICA (Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica), a federation of indigenous organizations across Latin America, discussed the idea of REDD+ Indigena Amazónico (RIA), or indigenous REDD.
"We've been working on our Life Plan since the 1990s," said Fermín Chimantani, co-president of Peru's Amaracaeri Reserve. "We've created governance structures, we've valued our ecosystem services – such as water filtration, biodiversity conservation, and evapotranspiration – and we've shown that we can use our indigenous vision to save and manage our forest."
The Gavião and the Arara, a neighboring tribe, are exploring the possibility of using carbon finance not at the project but at the jurisdictional level, as has been done in the state of Acre, Brazil. There, the state handles the carbon accounting and earns payments for reducing emissions but then distributes income based on its own criteria – and some of it flows to indigenous peoples. Juan Carlos Jintiach, former head of COICA, says most indigenous people will likely bypass project-level REDD – which is more directly tied to the carbon markets – and go the jurisdictional route.
"Think about all the mega projects that are going to be developed," said Jintiach. "We know what´s going to happen: islands of deforestation, contamination, and criminal activities – but we, the indigenous people of the Amazon, have an answer."
Read the full story on Life Plans and Indigenous REDD from Ecosystem Marketplace.
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