Forests in indigenous territories play an important role in climate action and in fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
Photo: ©FAOAmericas

Indigenous and Tribal Peoples best guardians of forests

Improving tenure in the Amazon basin can lower deforestation rates and biodiversity loss. Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean are the best guardians of their forests when compared to those responsible for the region´s other forests.

Deforestation rates in Latin America and the Caribbean are significantly lower in Indigenous and Tribal territories where governments have formally recognised collective land rights, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) states in March 2021. Thus, improving the tenure security of these territories is an efficient and cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

"Indigenous and tribal peoples and the forests in their territories play vital roles in global and regional climate action and in fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition," said FAO's Regional Representative, Julio Berdegué. "Their territories contain about one third of all the carbon stored in the forests of Latin America and the Caribbean and 14 per cent of the carbon stored in tropical forests worldwide."

The lowest deforestation rates were seen in indigenous territories that have recognised collective legal titles to their lands: between 2000 and 2012, deforestation rates in these territories in the Bolivian, Brazilian and Colombian Amazon were only one-half to one-third of those in other forests with similar ecological characteristics.
45 per cent of the intact forests in the Amazon Basin are in indigenous territories. While the area of intact forest declined by only 4.9 per cent between 2000 and 2016 in the region's indigenous areas, in the non-indigenous areas it fell by 11.2 per cent.

The impact of guaranteeing tenure security is great

The deforestation rate inside indigenous woodlands where land property has been ensured was 2.8 times lower than outside such areas in Bolivia, 2.5 times lower in Brazil and 2 times less in Colombia. 

Territories owned collectively by Indigenous Peoples avoided between 42.8 and 59.7 million metric tons (MtC) of CO2 emissions each year in the same three countries; these combined emissions were the equivalent of taking between 9 and 12.6 million vehicles out of circulation for one year.

Of the 404 million hectares occupied by Indigenous Peoples, governments have formally recognised their collective property or usage rights over about 269 million hectares. While the impact of guaranteeing tenure security is great, the cost is very low.

According to FAO, the costs of securing indigenous lands are 5 to 42 times lower than the average costs of avoided CO2 through fossil carbon capture and storage for both coal- and gas-fired power plants.

Indigenous and Tribal Peoples protect biodiversity

Indigenous and Tribal Peoples are involved in the communal governance of between 320 and 380 million hectares of forests in the region, which store about 34,000 million metric tons of carbon, more than all the forests in Indonesia or in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While Amazon Basin indigenous territories lost less than 0.3 per cent of the carbon in their forests between 2003 and 2016, non-indigenous protected areas lost 0.6 percent and other areas that were neither indigenous territories nor protected areas lost 3.6 per cent. 

Indigenous Peoples and Tribal Peoples also play an important role in safeguarding biodiversity. Brazil's indigenous territories have more species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians than in all the country's protected areas outside these territories, while in Bolivia two-thirds of the country's vertebrate species and 60 per cent of its plant species can be found in the Tacana and Leco de Apolo indigenous territories.


Read more at FAO website 

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