The Amazon Biome is a region shared by nine countries―Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana―and has an approximate surface of 7.8 million square kilometers (similar in size to the United States). This planetary asset of incalculable value is made up of a complex diversity of ecosystems with a wealth of natural resources that provide oxygen, water and energy for sustaining planetary systems.

 

Photo: Federico Bellone

The deforestation of the Amazon has an impact on the region by influencing
climate change and the sustainability of many different ecosystems.

Preserving a Source
of Life

D eforestation for expanding agribusiness, cattle ranching and agriculture, the construction of highways and other infrastructure developments, and the expansion of rural settlements all contribute to degradation of the Amazon Biome. Increasing CO₂ emissions reduce the absorption capacity of the biome, thereby intensifying the greenhouse effect and influencing climate change and the sustainability of its ecosystems.  All of these effects have negative impacts on the quality of life of more than 33 million people who live in the Amazon, the immensely diverse wildlife in the region and the health of the entire planet. Can we prevent the continuous decline of this great source of life and revert some of the damage already caused? Yes. How? Through our capacity to build a global vision of the Amazon as a public good, and through working together to preserve it.  

 

What Avina Does for the Amazon Biome

A vina focuses its vision and action on the Amazon basin as a whole, extending beyond the many administrative and political boundaries that divide it.   For this reason, our contribution to the cause involves the coordination and strengthening of local and regional players to enhance their efforts to mitigate climate change and guarantee the sustainability of the ecosystem and the quality of life for inhabitants.  Our goal is to identify, strengthen and connect initiatives in building a vision of the Amazon as a public good.  Coordinated actors from different sectors who share goals and are armed with accurate and timely information, can begin to steer the Amazon Biome toward sustainability. Our action emphasizes three strategic goals in particular:

 

  1. Consolidate a Pan-Amazon platform for collaboration that reinforces the culture of sustainability in the Amazon and mobilizes social and environmental responses to the most threatening trends in the region.
  2. Set up a permanent and effective capacity for civil society in the countries of the Amazon to independently monitor deforestation independently and in real time in order to pressure government and the private sector.
  3. Consolidate and replicate successful local land management models on the front line of deforestation in the Amazon to promote effective sustainable development alternatives.

 

During 2012, the Amazon Biome Strategy team at Avina worked intensely to refine this agenda, reviewing the current context of pressures and threats in the Amazon, as well as the most effective means to counteract them. These refined strategic goals allow Avina to further focus its actions and performance, enabling a greater contribution and, we hope, increased signs of progress in the coming years.

 

These are some of the results generated in the Amazon Biome for 2012:

 

Governments and Civil Society Join Forces to Reduce Deforestation

Photo: Paula Ellinger

Ranchers in Alta Floresta now follow best practices for environmental
conservation.

In 2012, the Amazon Biome Strategy made important contributions to reducing deforestation in the region through improved interaction between our allies and governments which resulted in influencing public sector priorities and its policies. One of the major achievements of 2012 is that the Alta Floresta municipality in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state went from being one of the worst examples of deforestation nationally to become a “Green Municipality” that has eliminated deforestation through cross-sector commitments and sustainable production processes. The Brazilian Environment Ministry confirmed that Alta Floresta has been removed from the list of municipalities that cause the most damage to forests in the Amazon region.


Elsewhere in the fight against deforestation, cooperation with the government of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was crucial in consolidating the policy to prevent controlled burns and forest fires. Through a public awareness campaign and the organization of cross-sector round tables that led to regulation and control mechanisms, problems related to controlled burns were reduced dramatically.


Another important outcome was the launch announced by the governor of Brazil’s Pará state of the so-called “zero deforestation” goal for 2020. This is a challenging goal, but aligned with Brazil’s national target to reduce deforestation by 80 percent.

 

The successes achieved in these countries enjoy support from the alliance between Avina and the Skoll Foundation, and are due to the action of local allies such as the Instituto Centro de Vida (Life Center Institute), Imazon, Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza (Friends of Nature Foundation), the Alta Floresta municipal government and the state governments of Santa Cruz and Pará, among others.

 

New Networks for More Impact

Photo: Edmond Sánchez

Launch of “Amazon under Pressure” atlas in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Avina’s Amazon Biome Strategy has supported the activities of two influential regional networks: The Red Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada, or RAISG, (Amazonian Network of Geo-referenced Socio-Environmental Information) and the Red Latinoamericana de Ministerio Público Ambiental (Latin American Environmental Prosecutor Network).


RAISG is made up of 11 organizations representing the different countries of the Amazon basin. This network generates strategic information for civil society that consolidates data across the Amazon and offers an integrated overview of the pressures and threats that the region faces.  In 2012, RAISG  created and launched three important information products: “El Mapa 2012 de Áreas Protegidas y Territorios Indígenas” (“The 2012 Map of Protected and Indigenous Territories”); the atlas, “Amazonía Bajo Presión,” (“Amazon under Pressure”), which analyzes the main threats to the region; and the map, “Deforestación en la Amazonía,” (“Map of Deforestation of the Pan-Amazon Region”) an insert in the atlas.

 

The Latin American Environmental Prosecutor Network recognizes that infrastructure projects create significant stresses in the Pan-Amazon region.  The network created a working group to produce an integrated analysis of the impact of hydroelectric plants across different countries in the region. The resulting study has already begun to influence court decisions related to the issue, such as a court order for new comprehensive environmental assessments related to projects in the Tapajós and Jamanxim river basins in Brazil, and a review of the collective impact of construction of a series of small hydroelectric plants in the Pantanal wetlands. The network links federal environmental prosecutors from several different countries in order to encourage exchange of best practice and technology, and to plan coordinated actions.

 

Protecting the Human Rights of Amazon Inhabitants

A vina was pleased to see additional important advances in 2012 in the struggle to defend the human rights of Amazonian residents. The Kichwa, indigenous people of Sarayaki, had brought a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 2003 against the State of Ecuador for harm done by allowing a private oil company to exploit deposits in their ancestral territory since the late 1990s without their consent. In June of 2012, the IACHR ruled against the Ecuadoran government for not consulting with the Kichwa people before allowing oil exploration activities on their land, denying them their rights to prior consultation and respect for their ancestral territory and cultural identity. This victory is key for other indigenous people in the region as the IACHR ruling sets a promising legal precedent.


Avina provided support for leaders of the Kichwa people to argue their case at hearings in the U.S. and regional forums.

Countries where Avina’s Amazon Biome Strategy Opportunity for Impact operates

 

 

Our main allies and co-
investors for this Opportunity for Impact in 2012 were: 
  • Skoll Foundation, with whom Avina has an alliance for climate change mitigation through conservation of the Amazon Biome and its associated environmental services.
  • Climate and Land Use Alliance, promotes the reduction of greenhouse emissions caused by deforestation in Brazil.
  • Fundo Vale (Vale Fund): builds a cooperative strategy for the Pan-Amazon region.
  • Articulación Regional Amazónica (Amazon Regional Articulation): promotes a network of Amazonian allies to discuss alternatives for conservation of the basin at the national and Pan-Amazon levels.
  • Red Latinoamericana de Ministerio Público Ambiental (Latin American Environmental Prosecutor Network): fosters communication among environmental prosecutors who handle similar cases regarding pressures for unsustainable development of the Amazon in their respective countries.
  • Forum Amazônia Sustentável (Sustainable Amazon Forum):  the most important cross-sector debate about development models for the Brazilian Amazon.
  • Red Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada  (The Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information), an alliance to exchange, integrate and share geo-referenced information related to socio-environmental diversity in the Amazon.
  • CAF-Banco de Desarrollo de América Latina, Programa GeoSUR  (CAF’s GeoSUR Program) offers vital information for geographical monitoring of the region, and an exchange forum to provide training to networks of relevant actors in the region.
  • Grupo de Trabalho Amazônico (Amazon Working Group), promotes the participation of 600 community organizations of the Brazilian Amazon in creating sustainable development policies, in recognition that the cooperation of native and traditional peoples is essential for achieving sustainability.

 

Minería y Actuación del Ministerio Público en Latinoamérica (Mining and the Actions of Environmental Prosecutors in Latin America), a book published by the Latin American Environmental Prosecutor Network and sponsored by Fundación Avina, summarizes the impacts and legal regulations of mining in the region. Download it here (in Spanish).

 

Amazonía Bajo Presión (Amazon Under Pressure), an atlas created by RAISG with support from Avina, presents an overview of current and potential threats to the Amazon. Download it here (in Spanish).