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May 11, 2017. Earth / A Geography of Hope

Indigenous Peoples and Primary Forests

Indigenous peoples number about 370 million in some seventy countries across the globe, from the heart of Amazonia and the Congo Basin, to both boreal and temperate forests

Cyril F. Kormos, Russell A. Mittermeier, Tilman Jaeger, Brendan Mackey

Primary forests are home for many Indigenous peoples, which depend directly on them for their livelihoods—using wild plants and animals for food, clothing, fuel, medicine and shelter.

Unfortunately, these territories are being threatened by infrastructure development, logging, oil, gas and mineral extraction, hydroelectric projects and agribusiness.

Fortunately, in many places indigenous communities have been able to respond to such threats, raising their voices and initiating successful campaigns to secure their traditional rights, as well as greater protection for the primary forests that sustain them, often through adaptive management schemes, based on their traditional knowledge and practices. Indeed, numerous studies indicate that one of the most effective ways of contributing to conservation efforts globally is to recognize Indigenous peoples’ rights to their territories.

For example, the forests of the Guiana Shield in the northeastern corner of South America are still largely intact and home to a number of Amerindian peoples. This region includes parts of six countries: Suriname, Guyana, department of French Guiana, about half of Venezuela, a considerable part of Brazilian Amazonia and a small portion of Colombia. Despite being in the tropics, this region is one of the most sparsely populated in the world, comparable to Northern Canada and Siberia. French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana are the three top countries worldwide in terms of forest area per capita, and Suriname’s 94% rain forest cover makes it the largest remaining on Earth. For this reason, Suriname is often referred to as “The Greenest Country on Earth”.


This is an excerpt from the CEMEX Nature Series Book “A Geography of Hope: Saving the Last Primary Forests” (2016)


A Geography of Hope

Saving the Last Primary Forests

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