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Think Forests

Think forests and start by listening to their people

Etta Cala Klosi's picture
Myrna Cunningham
Interview with Dr. Myrna Cunningham


My childhood forests are tall, old growth trees clinging to mountainous slopes.

My sister and I would spend the first two weeks of our summer break at camps in the mountains of Albania. Getting a spot at a camp was a coveted ‘luxury’ but my sister and I were lucky -our mother was an official chaperone. She would wake us at 5 am to walk in the forest before everyone else was up. I have to say that as a five year old I didn’t appreciate the scenery. It was too early in the morning and anyway who cared about birds and foxes? (One time though we did see a red squirrel jumping from tree branches and even I had to admit that was awesome.)

Nas florestas, uma mudança de atitude em favor dos povos indígenas

Myrna Kay Cunningham Kain's picture
Also available in: Español | English
Girl. Panama. Gerardo Pesantez-World Bank

Em 2015, mais de 500 milhões de hectares de florestas eram posse de povos indígenas. Embora nas últimas décadas a área florestal designada aos povos indígenas e sob sua posse tenha aumentado, os governos ainda administram 60% dessas áreas, e as corporações e agentes privados, 9%. A pressão dos povos indígenas nas últimas décadas tornou possível aumentar em cerca de 50% a área florestal reconhecida como propriedade das comunidades indígenas e a elas designada. A América Latina e o Caribe, onde os povos indígenas controlam 40% das florestas, é a região com maiores avanços. Outras regiões do mundo mostram tendências semelhantes.

Para os povos indígenas, que sempre têm vivido na floresta, ela representa seu espaço de reprodução cultural, produção de alimentos e segurança espiritual. Para os governos e empresas, a floresta contém ativos importantes para a produção de alimentos, desenvolvimento econômico, segurança, mitigação da mudança do clima, sequestro de carbono, água, minerais e extração de gás. A essas percepções divergentes sobre propriedade e uso da floresta somou-se nas últimas décadas a multiplicação de conflitos sobre o controle do território e recursos florestais. Com a crescente demanda internacional de bens primários (minerais, hidrocarbonetos, soja e outros produtos agrícolas básicos), há um maior dinamismo econômico com base em sua exploração. No entanto, isso foi ao custo de graves impactos ambientais, reclassificações espaciais e violações de direitos, interesses, territórios e recursos dos povos indígenas (CEPAL 2014).

Nesse contexto, o que está contribuindo para a mudança de atitude, tanto no nível de país como global, que nos permite concluir que essa situação já começou a se reverter?

For forests, a change in attitude in favor of indigenous communities

Myrna Kay Cunningham Kain's picture
Also available in: Español | Português
Girl. Panama. Gerardo Pesantez-World Bank
In 2015, more than 500 million hectares of forests were held by indigenous peoples.  Despite the increase in forest area designated for and owned by indigenous peoples in recent decades, governments still administer 60 percent of these forest areas while firms and private individuals administer 9 percent. Pressure exerted by indigenous peoples over the past few decades has led to a 50 percent increase in forest areas recognized as being owned or designated for use by indigenous communities. The greatest strides have been made in Latin America and the Caribbean, where indigenous peoples control 40 percent of forest land. Similar trends have been observed in other regions across the globe.  

For the indigenous peoples who have always lived in the forests, these areas represent their space for cultural reproduction, food production, and spiritual security. For governments and companies, forests contain major assets for food production, economic development, security, climate change mitigation, carbon sequestration, water, minerals, and gas extraction. Added to these divergent views on forest ownership and use is the proliferation in recent decades of conflicts over territorial control and forest resources. Growing international demand for commodities (minerals, hydrocarbons, soybeans, and other basic agricultural products) has fueled greater economic activity linked to the development of forest resources. However, this progress has come at a price: adverse environmental impacts, the reclassification of spaces, and the dispossession of the rights, interests, territories, and resources of indigenous peoples (ECLAC 2014).  

In this context, a question arises: What is contributing to the behavioral change, both at the country and global levels, which leads us to conclude that a reversal in the situation has begun?